Alumna Hannah Watson receives award

Hannah Watson teaches mathematics at Franklin High School.

Hannah Watson teaches mathematics at Franklin High School.

Hannah Watson, a May graduate of Western Carolina University, received the Outstanding Math Education Student award for the western region of the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics on Thursday, Oct. 25, in Greensboro. Students from WCU have been named winners of this award for 23 of the last 26 years.

The daughter of Ken and Vicki Watson of Murphy, Watson graduated as valedictorian from Hiwassee Dam High School in 2007. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and mathematics education from Western Carolina with a 3.62 grade-point average and was a dean’s list student each semester.

“I feel extremely blessed and honored to have been recognized for this award,” Watson said. “Ever since the day I made the decision to teach I have never looked back, and it has been my dream to teach math. I couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling career. My students help me make every day an adventure.”

Watson is now teaching mathematics at Franklin High School in Macon County, where she interned as a student teacher.

“When I visited (Watson) during her student teaching at Franklin, I could see she was a good fit there,” said her adviser Kathy Jaqua, WCU associate professor of mathematics and computer science. “She had students involved in activities and was using the technology there to make all 90 minutes of the class period count. Franklin has invested in advanced technology and has a strong faculty – they think similarly about active, hands-on learning.”

Watson agrees. “I’m thankful to be working at Franklin High School, where I’m surrounded by a tight-knit community of friends and colleagues,” she said. “We are fortunate to have abundant technology here on campus to enrich our teaching.”

Active in WCU’s student affiliate of the NCCTM, Watson presented research at the Smoky Mountain Undergraduate Research Conference on the History of Mathematics, and also attended last year’s state conference as a student teacher. She was recognized as an Outstanding Prospective Teacher and received the Outstanding Student Teacher in Mathematics Award while a student.

“She is one of our outstanding teachers,” Jaqua said. “It was easy to write a description of her work when nominating her.”

Each year, the NCCTM professional organization recognizes one junior or senior working toward elementary, middle school or secondary certification from each of the western, central and eastern regions of the state. Recognition is based on the criteria of GPA as well as the student’s involvement in NCCTM and campus and community activities, said Bampia Bangura, a professor of mathematics at N.C. A&T State University and chair of the NCCTM special awards committee.

Recipients and their colleges each receive a plaque at an awards dinner, usually held in late October.

Watson now teaches with WCU alumna Emily Beller Awtry, the 1999 winner of the award, and said of her, “She is a fantastic teacher and an inspiration to myself and others at Franklin High.”

Last year’s winner for the western region was Caitlin Yencha, also a May 2012 WCU graduate. A native of Cary, Yencha is at East Henderson High School in Flat Rock, realizing her career ambition to teach secondary math. “That’s great news for Hannah,” Yencha said. “She deserves this award. She was always the hardest-working student in the classes we shared.”

For more information, contact Kathy Jaqua at 828-227-3826 or