Receiving the Presidential Award is humbling and inspiring in equal measure. In fact, the reflection and synthesis required in responding to the nomination were invaluable. Just as “answers” aren’t the end goal in science, but instead serve as catalysts for new questions and discoveries, I see this award as an opportunity for new perspectives and discoveries as a teacher, not as an end goal. I hope to use my growth through this process to benefit students and fellow educators.

Dianna McDowell Virginia Beach, VA | 7-12, Science, 2017

The official biography below was current at the time of the award.

Dianna McDowell has been an educator for 12 years and has spent the last ten years teaching at Old Donation School. She currently teaches eighth grade Earth Science. She previously taught at Landstown High School and Kellam High School. Dianna is passionate about the content of her class, but cares even more deeply about student growth in scientific thinking, looking beyond the “what” to determine the underlying “how and why” in the interconnected systems of earth science. Students work in groups to investigate community issues and work toward solutions that incorporate the pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social. For the past 11 summers, Dianna was the director of a STEM summer program for elementary students, Camp Invention, promoting divergent thinking, creative problem solving, and consensus building. In addition, she mentors a staff of counselors who oversee the campers each summer, instilling the value of inquiry, innovation, and imagination in scientific discovery. Dianna was the recipient of the American Geosciences Institute Edward C. Roy Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching in 2016. Dianna earned a B.A. in environmental science and a M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Virginia. She is a certified teacher in earth and space sciences and has an endorsement in gifted education.