Two Alumni Are Recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

July 7, 2015 -- Two University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduates are the recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching — the nation's top honor for K-12 mathematics or science teachers. 

The recipients, Scott Hertting and Peter Bohacek, were announced by President Barack Obama on July 1. They will join 106 other mathematics and science teachers from all 50 states and all U.S. territories at an award ceremony in Washington, D.C. later this summer. Hertting and Bohacek join past UW-River Falls recipients Jim Schmidt and Jay Zimmerman. 

"The Presidential Award is an unbelievable honor and very humbling," said Hertting, a 1997 graduate with a Master of Science in Education degree in physics. "To me, this award means I have an opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank my colleagues, mentors, students and family for helping me grow into the educator I have become." 

Hertting, of Appleton, has taught in the Neenah High School Science Department since 1993. His classes include general and advanced physics and advanced physics concepts. 

Hertting engages his students by using the Modeling Method, which lets them create experimental models to explain scientific phenomena, according to Presidential Award website. He helped found the Phox Valley Physics and Physical Science Share Group for local teachers, and serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. 

Hertting said his education at UWRF was a key part of his development as an award-winning teacher. 

"The entire Physics Department is incredible," he said. "It helped to instill an enthusiasm and love for physics in me, and taught me to always put my students first. I really think it's a testament to the UWRF program and the department that four people associated with it have been awardees."  

Award recipient Bohacek, of Afton, Minn., is a 2011 Masters of Science in Education degree in physics. Bohacek, who calls teaching physics his dream job, is a former electrical engineer. He has taught for 12 years at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, Minn. 

For more than a decade, Bohacek has worked as a teacher mentor to increase enrollment in physics as a 12th grade elective. He is also the founder of the Direct Measurement Video Project which aims to create free teaching materials for students. Bohacek collaborates with teachers and college faculty across the country, including at UWRF. Bohacek said he was on the River Falls campus when he learned he'd received the award. 

"I was in the lab working with Professor Matthew Vonk when I got the news," Bohacek said. "It's fitting because I think a big part of why I received the award was because of the Direct Measurement Video Project." 

Like Hertting, Bohacek praised the UWRF program for its ability to create outstanding physics teachers. 

"I think it's amazing there are so many award winners from the program," Bohacek said. "I don't think it's a coincidence. It speaks to the quality of the physics education program." 

The award is given annually to outstanding K-12 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, according to the award website.

Hertting and Bohacek will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. They also are invited to Washington, D.C. for the awards ceremony, educational and celebratory events and visits with members of the Obama administration.

For more information about the recipients, call Lowell McCann, UWRF physics professor, at 715-425-3196 or email at


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