The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 7, 2010

Richland math teacher earns national award

Arlene Johns

JOHNSTOWN — An area teacher was among 103 mathematics and science educators named by President Barack Obama as recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  

Becky Piscitella, a math instructor at Richland High School, was the only teacher from Pennsylvania to receive the award.

The Windber woman, who learned Monday afternoon that she had been chosen, said she was very excited.

“It’s so nice to be recognized for the work that you do daily – that often goes unnoticed,” she said.

Thomas Fleming Jr., Richland superintendent, called Piscitella a hard-working educator.

“We’re extremely proud to have one of our teachers recognized for this award,” Fleming said. “She is very deserving of this honor.”

Piscitella teaches 11th-grade math, a critical subject for juniors due to PSSA testing as well as SATs.

“She takes a lot of personal responsibility in our students’ achievements in math,” Fleming said.

The award is given annually to the best pre-college level science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners are selected following an initial selection process done at the state level.  

Piscitella said she applied for the award in May 2009 at the urging of her former Pitt-Johnstown adviser.

Her application had to include a video and accompanying article on a lesson.

Piscitella said she was chosen for her ability to teach a complicated topic in a way that made it more understandable to the students.

Winners receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion.

They also receive an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and science agency leaders.

Piscitella, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Pitt-Johnstown and a master’s from IUP, said her prize money will got toward paying off her student loans.

While the money will be appreciated, she also is thrilled at the prospect of meeting the leader of the country.

“To meet the president – I can only imagine,” she said. “It’s an absolute honor.”

Piscitella and her husband, Thomas III, have three children: Zane, 10; Veta, 8; and Mia, 4.

She and her husband, along with a friend, are renovating and opening the Windber Hotel.

She is the daughter of Dave and Carol Cadwallader, formerly of Portage.