New Canaan Public Schools' math specialist Maren Sussman, one of only two Connecticut teachers to receive the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, was honored by the Board of Education Monday.

"Being nominated for the Presidential Award has been both surreal and humbling," she said in a statement. "Never did I think that I would be recognized at such a high level for doing something that I am passionate about."

The award is presented annually to outstanding science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners are selected by a panel of scientists, mathematicians and educators following an initial selection process done at the state level.

Sussman joined East Elementary School in September after working as a classroom teacher in the Ellington Public Schools for 12 years, where she taught first, second, third and fifth grades.

East School Principal Alexandra "Bunny" Potts said the first few months have "been wonderful."

"She's a very esteemed teacher," Potts said. "And I know, having spoken to her (former) principal, that they were quite upset that she agreed to come to work in New Canaan."

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The award was for 2012 but it was announced in December.

"One can only surmise from that length of time that this was a very lengthy application process, and that the deliberations went on for a long time," Potts said.

In January, Sussman joined the other recipients at a ceremony at the White House, where they received their awards. The 101 winners also received a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion.

Sussman has taught students of all abilities, including those with special needs, by "using her differentiated, multi-modality approach," according to a White House news release. "She incorporates the Smart Board and other technology into her lessons, works collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team, and maintains a website to communicate with parents."

Sussman is a member of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Connecticut and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Additionally, she has served on a number of committees and has worked to align the mathematics curriculum with the Common Core State Standards.

Sussman has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Hartford and a master's degree in elementary mathematics education from Central Connecticut State University. She is enrolled in the mathematics educational leadership program at CCSU.

"Her resume reads like any professional biography," Potts said.

Board of Education Chairman Hazel Hobbs said she was happy a woman won the award.

"It's fantastic to see a woman involved with math and sciences. I'm glad to see that in New Canaan," Hobbs said.

Sussman said the award represents a new era for mathematics.

"I hope to pass on the gift of enjoyment of mathematics to my students, and to believe in them until they are fully ready to believe in themselves, like my professor who nominated me did for me," she said in her statement. "This award is the ultimate honor, and proof that our students truly will rise to our high expectations.", 203-330-6582, @olivnelson