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Omaha Public Schools Teacher Earns Presidential Award for Excellence

An Omaha Public Schools teacher has received one of the highest honors available to math and science teachers nationwide.

Leah Litz, Zoo Kindergarten Teacher at Bancroft ElementaryLeah Litz, of Bancroft Elementary, has earned a place among the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) recipients. 

According to the White House, the PAEMST is the highest award kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics and science teachers can receive from the U.S. government. It recognizes educators for their commitment to supporting students who are interested in the STEM profession.

Litz demonstrates her dedication as a Zoo Kindergarten teacher for Bancroft Elementary. The program is part of a place-based education program that partners Omaha Public Schools and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. Litz said she is passionate about connecting students to the world around them as she helps students develop a strong academic foundation. 

“It is an incredible honor to be recognized among this prestigious group of educators. I am proud of the work our community is doing within science education and continue to be inspired by my students’ courage, curiosity, resilience, and compassion they have for the environment and humanity,” Litz shared.

Her contributions to the program include helping to expand access for students and increase enrollment.

“It is a privilege to work within the partnership between Omaha Public Schools and Omaha’s Zoo. This accomplishment would not have been possible without their support and the support of my family.”

Litz is the third presidential award winner recognized within Zoo Education Department since 2010.

“The Zoo Kindergarten is recognized nationally as an innovative education program,” said Elizabeth Mulkerrin, Ed.D., vice president of education for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. “Leah’s honor demonstrates the high-quality education we are providing at the Zoo daily.”

Award nominees completed a rigorous application process to demonstrate their knowledge and dedication to improving STEM education. A panel of distinguished mathematicians, scientists and educators at the state and national levels took part in the selection process.

Each recipient receives $10,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which manages the awards on behalf of the White House.

Omaha Public Schools Science Award Winners:

  • Jack Skrocky, 1983, Northwest High
  • Ron Cisar, 1984, Lewis & Clark Middle
  • Roger Rea, 1985, Northwest High
  • Mary Kubovy, 1987, Benson High
  • Susan Koba, 1992, North High
  • Dan Sitzman, 2003, North High
  • Vanita Jarmon, 2004, Central Park Elementary
  • LeeAnn Vaughan, 2007, North High
  • Reenie McMains, 2008, King Science & Technology Center
  • Laura Callahan, 2010, Bancroft Elementary
  • Amy Leising, 2019, Zoo Academy
  • Leah Litz, 2020, Bancroft Zoo Kindergarten 

Omaha Public Schools Math Award Winners:

  • John Waterman, 1986, Central High
  • Richard Simon, 1988, Northwest High
  • Deb Stuto, 1991, Catlin Elementary
  • Juli Reutter, 1994, Minne Lusa Elementary
  • Greg Sand, 2015, Central High
  • Melissa Szatko, 2018, Indian Hill Elementary