RIC Grad School Alumnae Receive Presidential Award for Excellence

Clare Ornburn, left, and Regina Kilday.

Clare Ornburn, left, and Regina Kilday.


President Barack Obama has named two Rhode Island College graduate school alumnae as recipients of the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Clare Ornburn, a fourth-grade teacher at Ashaway Elementary School in the Chariho School District, and Regina Kilday, the K-6 math coach for the Exeter-West Greenwich Regional School District, are among the 102 teachers across the country recognized for their dedication to advancing the mathematics and science fields.

Ornburn, who helped initiate a turnaround of her school’s science curriculum in order to incorporate inquiry-based scientific learning and writing, holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from Rhode Island College.

“Our students have really gained from inquiry-based science,” Ornburn said. “They learned how to be critical science thinkers. It’s about guiding lessons and letting children discover, then pulling them back in for discussion.”

Rhode Island College presented the ideal environment for graduate study, Ornburn said.

“I had fabulous professors at RIC who were out-of-the-box thinkers, and they really helped me to realize that school should be fun for kids,” she said. “They drove home the point that if you made learning fun, children would want to learn. I go by that philosophy every day.”

Kilday leads the Exeter-West Greenwich District Math Team and runs family math nights, parent math workshops and mathematics Web pages to promote mathematics education. She is president of the Rhode Island Mathematics Teachers Association and is a board member of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in New England. She also works at Metcalf and Wawaloam Elementary Schools.

“Receiving this award is very humbling, and I am very honored,” Kilday said. “When I first started teaching elementary school, I was terrified to teach math, though I always enjoyed it. But you just start growing and growing, and it’s amazing where things end up.”

Kilday earned a mathematics specialist certificate from RIC after becoming involved in mathematics leadership within her school district. She plans to complete a Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in mathematics.

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is awarded annually to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers. A panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians and educators selects winners from state-named finalists.

“These teachers are inspiring today’s young students to become the next generation of American scientists, mathematicians and innovators,” President Obama said in a news release. “Through their passion and dedication, and by sharing their excitement about science, technology, engineering and math, they are helping us build a promising future for all our children.”

Ornburn and Kilday will join other award winners in Washington, D.C., for educational and celebratory events. Winners each received a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.