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David Hartman

David Hartman, Southwest High School math teacher. (Courtesy photo)


As chairman of the mathematics department at Southwest High School, David Hartman probably could pick whatever math classes he’d like to teach.

He chooses to teach those designed for students who struggle with ninth-grade algebra.

“I guess I feel passionate about it,” he said.

And others have noticed.

Hartman, 39, is one of two Nebraska teachers who recently received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the highest recognition math and science teachers can receive.

Beatrice High School science teacher Joan Christen also received the award this year.

The two teachers will receive certificates signed by President Barack Obama, a paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., for recognition events and professional development sessions, and $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.

Christen, who could not be reached for comment, teaches zoology, botany, physics and advanced placement biology in Beatrice, according to the school’s Web site. She also sponsors the Beatrice High School Science Club.

Joan Christen, Beatrice High School science teacher. (Courtesy photo)

She has been at Beatrice High School since 2003 and began her teaching career in Stella seven years earlier. She earned her undergraduate degree from Peru State College and her master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Hartman earned his undergraduate and master's degrees at Doane College, and his doctorate from UNL. He started teaching math at Mickle Middle School, and seven years later moved to Southwest High School when it opened in 2002.

Matt Larson, LPS curriculum specialist in math, said Hartman is the definition of a professional mathematics teacher.

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“He’s committed to his students, he’s committed to his profession, he’s committed to ongoing learning, he’s committed to continued learning in mathematics,” Larson said. “He does all the things we would want a teacher of professional excellence to do.”

Hartman said he focuses on building positive relationships with students to help them grasp mathematical concepts.

“I like to offer multiple perspectives on how you learn math, but also on life in general,” he said.

He also teaches pre-calculus and advanced algebra and enjoys collaborating with other teachers, which he’s done at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as well as at LPS. While he was getting his doctorate, he worked with teachers in the Math in the Middle program, which offered master’s degrees to middle school teachers.

Larson said Hartman is among at least 10 LPS math teachers who have won the presidential award, an extremely high number for school districts nationwide and a reflection of the collaboration among teachers.

Hartman said he’s impressed with the role research can play in teaching and how much can be accomplished when teachers work together.

“The collaboration really promotes so much growth and capacity. That collegiality, it’s been a blessing.”

Reach Margaret Reist at 402-473-7226 or


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