From the moment Kate Kniss went to school, she knew she loved it and wanted to help others learn to love it too. Since then, Kniss has strived to make school interesting to all of her students, keep them engaged, and help them become the best person they can be.

Kniss took an interest in teaching after her outdoor education unit, a school camping field trip for two weeks in fifth grade at Laramie Peak. The students had to plan the trip, set up their tents, and cook their own food for the entirety of the trip. Kniss commented on how since all of the students were in fifth grade, they thought they were being adults and were cool because they had to do everything mostly on their own. The students had nature lessons with the park rangers which allowed Kniss to realize that school didn’t just have to be at school. This outing is what Kniss said convinced her to become a teacher. 

“Seeing the potential of school as a place to learn lots of things, not just academic things. I have always loved school but that was such a unique way to see the opportunities that school can offer and how a school can function,” Kniss said. “It doesn’t just have to be in a box all the time.” 

Eventually, Kniss started teaching fourth grade at Linford Elementary School. One day another teacher or parent noticed how well Kniss was doing teaching and nominated her for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science in Teaching or PAEMST. Kniss then had to film her fourth-grade class who are seniors at Laramie High School this year. Even though they were the stars of the video, the students were not taken to D.C.

The PAEMST is a very special award given to only one teacher or even none in a state per year, alternating between secondary and elementary school teachers. The teachers are nominated by fellow teachers or parents. The teachers nominated then have to provide video footage of themselves teaching a class and fill out multiple questions. The application then goes to the state level who then gets to decide if the candidate is good enough. After that, the application goes to the federal government who decides if the application should pass. If so, then the nominee has won like Kniss and is soon notified. Their trip to D.C. is then planned so that way everyone has a chance to meet the president.  

In 2012, Kniss won the PAEMST for mathematics in her classroom. This award then gave Kniss the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. to accept the award and meet the president in 2014, two years after she had won the award.

Kniss went to D.C. with her mom, dad, husband, and her son who was just a few months old at the time. They had a set agenda and spent about a week in D.C. doing various activities including meeting President Barack Obama. 

On the day they were going to the White House, D.C. was shut down because it had snowed and was colder than usual. Kniss explained how they were all freezing before they could go into the White House because of all of the security to protect the president and his family. When they finally arrived in the White House, Kniss and her family were able to tour the White House without a tour guide because D.C. was closed and there were no docents or tour guides. 

After taking their private tour, the Kniss’ were able to go to the East Room and meet Obama.

“It was very surreal. It just was one of those things that the whole time we’re just out of body,” Kniss said.

After spending time meeting Obama, Kniss and her family were able to meet the presidential chef who explained to the Kniss’ what he did on a daily basis, what kind of meals he cooked and how he came to the position of the head presidential chef. Kniss and her family also met with the media coordinator who explained what their job was just like the chef and how they set up all of the media for the president. That same night, Kniss and her family had dinner with Obama and the presidential chef in the White House dining room.

Kniss did not just meet Obama when she went to D.C., she also went to the National Science Foundation, or NSF which Kniss explained was a very cool experience since it runs a bunch of programs and funding in for the U.S school system. Kniss was able to talk with several people who were in the education branch to talk about things that were worthy of funding and such. 

While in D.C, Kniss attended many formal dinners with various people in government and in school systems. 

One of the days Kniss was in D.C., Kniss went to an event with senators and representatives of the house which is where she met the Wyo. senator Mike Enzi who congratulated Kniss on winning the award. 

Kniss and her family did not just go to elaborate dinners and meet the president. They also did the typical touristy things one would do in D.C. in their free time. Kniss and her family visited the planetarium for one night as well as going to the Smithsonian with her brother who was in D.C. to talk to the federal game and fish department. She also went to Bethesda to meet up with a friend from a college for lunch. Kniss also went out to lunch with one of her uncles who happened to be visiting D.C. at the time.

At the end of the week, there was a huge assembly for all the winners of the award. The assembly was also a dinner event where each winner was able to have their families watch them receive their awards. Kniss went on stage and received her award which she now cherishes as being one of her greatest accomplishments. 

Now, Kniss works as the head of the school district’s professional development team. She is in charge of the group that puts together the stuff that the elementary teachers do on staff development days. She is also in charge of holding meetings with the team and checking in on everybody and their individual schools. Part of the group’s job is to support individual teachers through coaching and to facilitate PLC meetings with grade-level teams. 

With the help of the PAEMST, Kniss has been able to become a better educator helping others with her amazing experience.