By Linda Relyea
ALAMOSA— Many Adams State University alumni continue their great stories by inspiring students in public schools and often their outstanding efforts receive national attention. This spring Cammie Newmyer was named a 2018-2019 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow.
“When I received the email for the in-person interview, held in Washington, DC, I acted like a child at Christmas. I was shaking all over with tears streaming down my face – all the emotion stored up from many years of hard work and effort.” Newmyer has taught math in the San Luis Valley since 2000, and since 2011 has been with the Monte Vista Online Academy/Byron Syring Delta Center. She first applied for the Einstein Fellowship in 2011, each year adding more experiences towards the goal.
The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship (AEF) Program provides a unique opportunity for accomplished K-12 STEM educators to apply their extensive classroom knowledge and experiences to their host offices to inform federal STEM education efforts.
For her fellowship, Newmyer will serve at the National Science Foundation Education and Human Resources Directorate (HER), Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE), working with Dr. Sandra Richardson, head of the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. The Robert Noyce program is dedicated to attracting the most promising undergraduate STEM majors and encouraging them to become K12 STEM teachers through mentoring, internships and financial incentives.
Passing along her passion for mathematics to future generations is important to Newmyer. “Humans exist in a physical universe. That universe behaves in predictable patterns. Mathematics is the language that describes those patterns.”
One of her biggest success stories involves a young man who lives with autism and had not passed a math class when he became Newmyer’s student. “In just two years, he completed Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II. Not just well, but at a level of understanding I had not witnessed in 18 years of teaching.” This particular student plans on becoming an engineer. “This experience cemented for me that is up to teachers to teach every student how they learn, not how we learned. We have so many gifted students who slip through the cracks because they cannot learn the way the system expects them to. It is up to teachers to find the key and help the student open the door.”
Mathematics - past, present and future
At Adams State Newmyer graduated with honors with a bachelor’s in mathematics with a secondary education emphasis and a minor in history in 2000. She believes her “best” math professors Dr. Ron Loser, emeritus professor of mathematics, and retired mathematics professors Ed Adams, Monte Zerger, made the biggest impact on her education. “Dr. Loser showed me how to see three dimensionally and helped me discover a love of number and group theory. Monte Zerger mentored me in my senior math project which I was selected to present at CSU for the Mathematical Association of America and Ed Adams was extremely patient in analysis.” She believes receiving a strong content math base with “great, caring instructors,” helped her in completing a master’s in mathematics from the University of Houston in 2011.
Loser, Adams State Class of 65, remembers Newmyer as a strong student. “Cammie had a creative need to uncover different approaches to mathematical ideas--typically a feature of superior mathematics teachers since it gives them more ways to explain mathematical objects and techniques.”
Eventually, Newmyer plans on earning a doctorate in applied mathematics, and hopes to spend some time this year researching universities in the DC area where the type of work that interests her is being conducted. “I teach mathematics, which is the language of science. I mentioned to one of my colleagues that I dream in math and he told me when people dream in a language they can state they have attained fluency in that language.”
The AEF Program, now in its 28th year of operation, is managed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science’s Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists in collaboration with the sponsoring agencies and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).
The AEF application process is highly competitive with thousands of applicants each year. Applications are submitted in November of each year. All applications are independently and blind-evaluated. The top applications are forwarded to participating agencies for review. In early February, the agencies then choose their top candidates for in person interviews and fly applicants out to Washington, DC in early March. For Newmyer’s interview weekend there were about 30 educators flown in for interviews for the 14 awarded positions. Two weeks after interviews, successful candidates were notified if they were selected by an agency for a position.
Adams State teaching tradition
Newmyer is a sixth generation San Luis Valley native and both her parents, Halsey Ray Newmyer and Catherine Rice Gallegos are Adams State alumni. “I grew up in a teaching family and swore I would never become a teacher,” Newmyer added. “Life happens and when I became a single mother, I went into the family business of teaching.”
Becoming an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, is one of Newmyer’s many accomplishments and recognitions including authoring Math That Makes Sense, four books in a series, available on Amazon. She was selected to speak at Mountain View, Calif., Google Headquarters for the CS&IT Symposium on recruiting students for Computer Science courses, “How does your GEEK garden grow” and was twice selected to speak at Houston, Texas, Space Center Houston, Space Exploration Educators Conference, in 2017 on engaging at risk youth in mathematics and in 2018, “Open the door!” divergent math education strategies. She received the Grace Hopper Scholarship in 2009; and was named the SLV Regional Science Fair Teacher of the Year in 2005 and 2006.
Newmyer has taught students at Sangre de Cristo, Sargent, Alamosa and Monte Vista. “The student, parent, and administrator populations of the San Luis Valley, the remoteness of the area and poverty, create some of the strongest, most resilient, divergent thinking STEM teachers in the United States. I am very grateful for my undergraduate education at Adams State.”