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A dream of teaching pushed Janet Sutorius to pursue a degree in teaching despite the odds—and it paid off

Janet Sutorius took 21 years to graduate from college, and when she did, she said it felt like a miracle.

“The poet Langston Hughes asked, ‘What happens to a dream deferred?’ I can give him an answer,” Sutorius said. “The dream, when finally attained, becomes a bigger dream. I couldn’t stop and just be a teacher. I wanted to be the best teacher I could be.”

Sutorius, who has now been teaching for 23 years, graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mathematics education, after deferring for many years to raise six children. She says that when she returned, she was often the only woman in many of her classes.

This summer Sutorius, who now teaches at Juab High School, was awarded the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching—receiving $10,000 along with the recognition.

“It was truly an honor,” Sutorius said. “I know people who have won it who I really admire, and I also know a lot of people who deserve it.”

After an initial selection process at the state level, math and science teachers are chosen yearly for these awards by a panel of scientists, mathematicians, and educators. Selection is based on teachers’ contributions to teaching and their ability to help students progress in mathematics and science.

Sutorius has been actively involved in transforming mathematics teaching at school, district, and state levels. She headed her school’s effort to participate in the state USTAR program, which currently allows for math and science teachers to be paid to extend math and science programs into the summer.

Remarking on her experience at BYU, Sutorius says that the McKay School of Education “marked the threshold of a great adventure,” which she continues to live.

August 9, 2010