BELTSVILLE – A Prince George’s County teacher is one of only four teachers in Maryland to receive national recognition from the President of the United States for her dedication and outstanding work in the field of science education. Elizabeth Lazaro, a special education science teacher at Buck Lodge Middle School in Beltsville, was announced as […]
BELTSVILLE – A Prince George’s County teacher is one of only four teachers in Maryland to receive national recognition from the President of the United States for her dedication and outstanding work in the field of science education.
Elizabeth Lazaro, a special education science teacher at Buck Lodge Middle School in Beltsville, was announced as a winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching on Aug. 22.
Lazaro is among 213 math and science teachers nationwide, who received the award. She is one of the first special education teachers and Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) educators to earn the recognition.
“The recipients of this award are integral to ensuring our students are equipped with critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are vital to our nation’s success,” President Barack Obama said. “As the United States continues to lead the way in the innovation that is shaping our future, these excellent teachers are preparing students from all corners of the country with the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills that help keep us on the cutting edge.”
The educators were selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators, which came after an initial selection process at the state level. The final awardees were picked based on their merits in the classroom as well as the impact they have had on their students and their schools.
Lazaro was nominated by her husband, who is also an educator in the county school system, but her support in the pursuit of the award was large.
Nori Duran, the assistant principal at Buck Lodge, was one of Lazaro’s nominators and said Lazaro is a distinguished teacher whose lesson plans and dedication to finding each student’s preferred and optimal learning strategy prove her deserving of the presidential honor.
“I just find Dr. Lazaro to be very approachable. She’s someone that new teachers can report to. She’s very receptive and she’s knowledgeable,” Duran said. “She brings a lot of experience to the classrooms, to not only special (education) classes, but also to science.”
Duran said it’s a great honor to the entire Buck Lodge community that Lazaro is representing the school on a national level. She joins a list of approximately 4,000 teachers who have been honored with the presidential award since 1983 and a long list of county teachers recognized at the national level.
“Lazaro’s name is added to a growing list of Prince George’s County Public Schools educators who are receiving national recognition for the work they’re doing in the classroom and beyond,” said Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of PGCPS. “I am proud of her recent success and motivated by the daily impact she’s making in her students’ academic lives.”
But Lazaro said she didn’t seek the award for the fame, or even the $10,000 prize money provided by National Science Foundation. She said she wanted to pursue the award because of her deep passion for special education, along with a desire for the country and the world to see that her students are capable of anything.
“Honesty the motivation is just, even in my write up I said that I just want to show the world that there are people like my students who are in the classroom, who are cognitively challenged, however they can learn,” Lazaro said. “With as much support and instruction that we can give.”
Lazaro said it is critically important to show her students achieving because she knows the impact on the special education children who do not have support, even at home.
“My first year, it broke my heart to see that most of them, even at home, are not supported,” she said, on the verge of tears. “Some of them have said ‘oh I can’t find a job because my mom said I should just stay home,’ and I said ‘No! No, you can do a lot!’”
Lazaro is currently in her 12th year teaching in PGCPS. Before becoming a teacher she was a veterinarian, which was her profession in the Philippines before she moved to the United States.
She had no idea when she made the journey overseas that she would one day be recognized on a national level for her teaching, though she always had a passion for special education.
Back home in the Philippines, she was the founder of a local support group for parents of students with special needs and is a huge advocate for her nephew with Down syndrome. She also holds a master’s degree in special education.
In the classroom, Lazaro has developed a variety of teaching styles to make sure her students are able to understand and participate in class. She said she uses everything from pictures and visuals to “manipulatives” and video to create hands-on activities for the students.
All of this was on display in the video Lazaro sent the award committee.
“She just makes sure that students get the content and that they receive their accommodation. She modifies lessons to meet different averages, so she’s definitely versed in using resources, to just make sure that the students understand the content,” Duran said. “That’s her goal.”
Lazaro said the work is very challenging, but every hour put into working with the children is worth it – worth seeing the students grasp a concept, excel in a field and move on to high school.
“That’s the reward I get, even if I was not given this award or recognition anywhere else, as long as I can see my students moving on to the next stage – that’s my reward,” she said. “They’re doing very well in high school.”