Priya Natarajan, a Casco Bay High School math teacher, has won a national award for excellence in mathematics teaching. Contributed

CBHS teacher wins Presidential Award for Excellence

Casco Bay High School math teacher Priya Natarajan has won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from the state in the math category.

Natarajan was named one of two Maine finalists in the 7th- through 12th-grade teachers of math category of the award two years ago, which put her in the running to win at the national level. She was in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 16 to receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

CBHS Principal Derek Pierce recommended Natarajan for the honor, saying, “Priya Natarajan may be the most comprehensively excellent teacher – and human – with whom I have worked. She does not just fulfill the rigorous criteria for this national honor, she exemplifies them.”

Natarajan was a math teacher and department head at Deering High School for 12 years before coming to CBHS five years ago. Before that, Natarajan, who has a master’s degree from Harvard, was a founding teacher of Boston Arts Academy.

She has excelled at CBHS, Pierce said. “Priya’s humble but persistent advocacy has elevated the status of math at our school,” he wrote in 2017. “Priya is especially passionate and effective at inspiring young women and students of color to pursue STEM. While Natarajan’s family is from India, she grew up in rural West Virginia.

She engages all students, Pierce said, asking “open-ended questions that invite student grappling and inquiry” and striking “an impressive balance with a classroom that functions like both a supportive community and a place where diverse individual needs can be met.”

Pierce also added that Natarajan has “contributed deeply and diversely to the life of the school, from chaperoning dances and launching math team to representing CBHS on district work.”

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are the highest honors bestowed by the government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science.

Casco Bay students seeking local heroes to honor

Casco Bay High School juniors are launching The People of Portland Project to showcase and honor community members who have shown immense courage, resilience and strength in the face of hardship or injustice.

In short, they’re looking for people in the Portland area whose stories they can bring to life.

The students are seeking nominations of people to interview and then showcase and honor in a live performance presentation. Nominations are due Nov. 12; more can be found at or by contacting CBHS English teacher Susan McCray at [email protected]

“In the media age, we hear much from or about the famous, rich and powerful, while our neighbors are quietly living heroic, brave lives – in small and big ways,” the students said in a prepared release. “We know there are many in our community who have shown immense courage, resilience and strength in the face of hardship or injustice. Most of us are not listening closely enough to those who are different from ourselves. We want to listen to these everyday people and we want to bring their stories to life for all of us to experience.

The nominees must be people who live in the Portland area and can be available in late January and early February for two one-hour interviews. CBHS juniors will read through all the nominations and select 22 people for the project.