Top TeacherFlushing Educator Finalist for National Award


Karen Sleno, a math teacher at Flushing High School, has been selected as a state finalist for the national 2023 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). According to Sleno, up to 108 teachers in total are recommended to receive PAEMST awards by a national committee of prominent mathematicians, scientists, mathematics/science education researchers, district level personnel and classroom teachers.

In order to qualify for the national award, one must be a teacher in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Sleno was one of five
educators selected from across Michigan, including Utica Community Schools, Chippewa Valley Schools, Farmington Public Schools, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools and Saline Area Schools. There will be two winners in each state – one for math and one for science, totaling 108 winners. The winners will go to Washington, D.C. to meet with the president and the winners from other states.

Sleno talks with teacher candidates at CMU at the New Teacher Conference last March.

According to Sleno, the winners will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation along with a Presidential certificate. They join an elite cohort of award-winning teachers who support and promote national STEM education.

Sleno has not yet heard who the winners are. “We have to wait to hear and it usually happens when we least expect it!” she exclaims. “It’s quite an honor. It’s exciting. There are a lot of amazing teachers in Genesee County. I feel a responsibility to represent all of us.”

I like seeing students have the ‘aha’ moment – when it all clicks. You can see it in their eyes. That moment is what makes it all worthwhile.
Karen Sleno

This isn’t the first award Sleno has received for her excellence in teaching. In 2022, she was one of ten regional educators chosen Michigan Department of Education Regional Teacher of the Year. “That was a very exciting time, too!” she exclaims. The ten of them met every month as the Michigan Teacher of the Year Leadership Advisory Council.

FHS acknowledged Sleno’s state nomination for the PAEMST award.

Sleno has been teaching math and science for almost three decades. “I’ve taught in every area in the math department,” she notes. She currently teaches Pre-calculus and Consumer Math, which is a financial literacy course. “A lot of students find it useful and can use what they learn in real life.” And, she has seen a lot of changes over the last 30 years, especially in the area of technology. When she first began teaching, there were no cell phones and no laptops.

Sleno was chosen Regional Teacher of the Year in 2022. Pictured with her are Flushing Principal Jason Melynchek (left) and Superintendent Matt Shanafelt.

She has also seen changes in the way the students learn, especially during the Pandemic, which was quite challenging and what she believes helped make learning more meaningful. “Students gained a lot of different skills because learning was different during the Pandemic,” she remembers. They had to adapt to different skills of learning and doing online activities together. “I believe it helped make learning richer for them. Kids love to have their brain stimulated – they may struggle; but I tell them it’s because their brains are growing.”

One way to make math fun: Celebrate Pi Day (3.14) by enjoying some pie!

When she isn’t teaching, Sleno enjoys traveling, having visited 45 states and 30 countries. “I love to travel!” she exclaims. “I am a foodie and I love learning about different cultures.”

What does Sleno like best about teaching? “I like seeing students have the ‘aha’ moment – when it all clicks. You can see it in their eyes. That moment is what makes it all worthwhile.” She loves it when former students stay in touch with her through social media. “It is so rewarding to me knowing I played a small part in their success. The students are what keeps me young. It warms my heart!”


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