MILWAUKEE — A long-time Milwaukee Public Schools teacher received the nation's highest honor for educators - the "Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching" from the White House.
Lois Womack has congratulatory certificates and letters from state and national leaders, but it's letters she’s received from students over the years that really stand out.
Lois read part of one letter to TMJ4: “The most important person to me is my fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Womack. She is a math master, and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be good at math. She is helpful and kind. She puts a smile on my face every day. I want to say thank you Ms. Womack.”
Lois, who currently teaches at Marvin Pratt Elementary, was born and raised in Milwaukee. She didn't have a black female teacher until a college math class.
“I want kids to see me and know they can go into math and science fields and excel,” Lois said. “I knew I wanted to teach math and break down concepts for kids, and help create that growth mindset, so they are confident about their skills.”
Improved student test results and proven classroom achievement helped Lois earn the presidential award, in addition to her deep personal connections with her students and their families. When the pandemic hit, and learning went virtual, Lois stepped-up even more.
“I wrote books for them to read at home and math resources because they didn't have those same resources at home, that they would have access to at school,” Lois said. “Then, during virtual learning, I could see them with the things I had mailed them, using them during instruction.”
Lois sent her students postcards and gift cards when they scored 100 percent on an assignment or test. All of that was done with money out of her own pocket.
“We started out with Wendy’s and McDonald’s gift certificates, and graduated to Starbucks and Chick Filet gift cards, and I was like 'wait a minute now this is getting crazy!'”
She wants more Milwaukee Public Schools teachers and students to get the positive recognition they deserve.
“I'm not sure they hear that as often as they need to hear that,” Lois said. “I’ve worked with amazing students and teachers my entire career.”