Presidential award winners receive $10,000 and a trip to Washington, DC

A Key West science teacher has received President Joe Biden’s highest national honor for science and math teachers. It comes with a $10,000 award and a free trip to Washington, DC for recognition events.

Katrina Madok, a fifth-grade/gifted science teacher at Gerald Adams Elementary School, is one of 117 U.S. teachers and mentors to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

“We are so proud of Katrina for being recognized with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, but our greatest pride rests in the work she does with our students,” Monroe COunty Schools Superintendent Theresa Axford said on Thursday. “They are so blessed to have her as their teacher. Her hard work and dedication will no doubt yield innovators and scientists among her students and help to make the world a better place.”

The Keys Weekly asked Madok what the award means to her.

“As an educator for more than 30 years, my dedication and passion to bring student  learning experiences alive through the use of high-quality resources and unique opportunities has made an incredible difference in my teaching style,” Madok said. “The award celebrates our student’s successes in our classroom as they develop inquiry skills and make meaningful connections in science to the world around them. It also validates the importance of guiding students to develop critical science and STEM skills to become lifelong learners.”

Award nominees complete a rigorous application process that allows them to demonstrate deep content knowledge and their ability to adapt to a broad range of learners and teaching environments, states a press release from the White House.

“A panel of distinguished mathematicians, scientists and educators assess the applications and recommend nominees to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Teachers are selected based on their distinction in the classroom and dedication to improving STEM education,” the release states.

This isn’t the first time Madok has been honored for her commitment to science and education. She was selected last year to help lead a NASA-funded program called Infiniscope that provides exploratory science activities and lessons that use NASA data and NASA subject matter experts. Madok also has repeatedly been recognized by the Monroe County School District, the Key West Chamber of Commerce, the state of Florida and a host of other national science programs.

Madok’s enthusiasm for science and her students is obvious and contagious.

She also ensures that her students, many of whom are in gifted and enrichment programs, have fun while they’re learning concepts that are crucial for the future. In 2014, the Keys Weekly caught up with Madok the College of the Florida Keys, where her gifted students were dropping eggs off a second-floor balcony. They weren’t vandalizing anything, but rather testing their own parachute and landing mechanisms that would protect the egg from the 20-foot drop. (The kids also cleaned up any messes before leaving the college campus.

“I am deeply appreciative of the inspiration that America’s teachers and mentors provide every day to support the next generation of STEM professionals,” President Biden said of the national awards that were announced this week. “The dedication these individuals and organizations have demonstrated to prepare students for careers in STEM fields, during what has been a difficult time for teachers, students, and families, plays a huge role in American innovation and competitiveness.  The work that teachers and mentors do ensures that our Nation’s children are able to unlock — for themselves and all of us – a world of possibilities.”


Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.