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'It’s the best job ever': Gilbert kindergarten teacher named finalist for presidential award

Sara Jordan-Heintz
Contributing writer

GILBERT – Angie Bonthuis has a passion for teaching young learners — a work ethic that hasn’t gone unnoticed by her peers and students’ families.

Bonthuis has been named a finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. She has taught kindergarten at Gilbert Elementary School for the past 21 years. Previously, she taught preschool at Southeast Webster Community School in Dayton.

A native of Coon Rapids, she and her family relocated to Waverly her senior year of high school.

“Our neighbor was a preschool teacher and she got me into that,” Bonthuis said of her career pathway.

She then attended Iowa State, earning a degree in Teaching Prekindergarten Kindergarten Children (the prior name for an Early Childhood Education degree). She also has a master’s degree from Drake University.

Her mentor Denise Carlson, who is a professor at Iowa State, nominated her for the award. Nominees are selected “based on their distinction in the classroom and dedication to improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.”

The PAEMST is the highest recognition that a K-12 math or science teacher can earn in the United States. Bonthuis said she had to write a paper and do videos in the classroom to be considered for the award.

“She has gone above and beyond with professional development and has been a leader in our building,” said Staci Edwards, Gilbert Elementary School principal. “She takes a lot of pride in what she does, the lessons she presents, and I really feel that is special about her.”

Bonthuis enjoys getting children enthused about math and number systems, beginning at a young age.

“I do a lot of problem-solving with my kids, like story problems and personalize them,” she said. “This year has been tough for games (but) we do a lot of games with dice and dominoes using those numbers to build number sense.”

She is honored alongside four other Iowa finalists:

Mathematics

  • Angie Bonthuis, kindergarten, Gilbert Community School District
  • Janet Riordan, kindergarten, Southeast Polk Community School District
  • Angela Schneden, first grade, Ankeny Community School District

Science

  • Sarah Borzo, former 6th Grade Science Teacher, Waukee Community School District (now Education and Outreach Coordinator for Metro Waste Authority)
  • Debra Huftalin, 3rd-grade teacher, Osage Community Schools

Winners will be announced later this year.

“It’s the best job ever. Every day is different. No one has more love in their life than a kindergartener,” Bonthuis said.

In her spare time, she travels the country going to conferences and giving talks about her teaching techniques.

“She spends most of her free time here at school,” Edwards said with a laugh. “She’s one of the last ones to leave. She puts in the time.”

Learn more at her blog: www.ilovekindergarten.com