BASIS.ed Teacher Wins White House Award It’s Often Called 'the Nation's Highest Teaching Honor'

Bailey in action in one of her many BASIS Scottsdale mathematics classes

President Barack Obama named BASIS Scottsdale math teacher Marizza Bailey as a recipient of the 2016 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators, the PAEMSTs are awarded annually to recipients nationwide who are nominated by principals, fellow teachers, students and families, and community members.

Bailey, who is beginning her seventh year at BASIS Scottsdale, has already left her mark on the BASIS.ed network’s math program. After she was hired in 2010, Bailey has served as a Mathematics Subject Advisor, has authored the network’s mathematics mid-year and end-of-year comprehensive exams, has created many new post-calculus courses for high school students, and has been a part of training all incoming BASIS.ed math teachers in pedagogy and teaching techniques.

“I’m very humbled,” Bailey said. “I work with such amazing teachers every day – who I know deserve this award as much as I do. I’m extraordinarily grateful to all of the mentors, teachers, and students I’ve had that have helped me be a better teacher.”

According to the White House website, the PAEMSTs recognize teachers like Bailey who “develop and implement a high-quality instructional program that is informed by content knowledge and enhances student learning.” This year, 213 teachers were honored – and the site says that the awards “are the highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science (including computer science), and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.”

“It is a thrill and an honor to have Ms. Bailey selected for this well-deserved award. Ms. Bailey has built a community of mathematicians at BASIS Scottsdale,” BASIS Scottsdale Head of School Kristen Jordison said. “She shares her enthusiasm with her students and colleagues – and we are incredibly honored to have her recognized for her tremendous efforts.”

Marizza Bailey teaching math at BASIS Scottsdale.
Marizza Bailey in action in one of her many BASIS Scottsdale mathematics classes.

Bailey spent a portion of her youth overseas due to her father’s engineering jobs, before ending up in California. She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in math from the University of California–Irvine, and has been an educator for seventeen years. She has taught high school math for thirteen years. At BASIS Scottsdale Bailey has taught Algebra 2, Precalculus, Advanced Placement Calculus, Introduction to Category Theory, Multivariable and Vector Calculus, Linear Algebra, History of Math, and Complex Analysis – a list that includes five college-level post-calculus classes which she created.

“Marizza Bailey is an extraordinary educator. Her passion for mathematics and her focus on her students and their learning are an inspiration to everyone across our network,” BASIS.ed CEO Peter Bezanson said. “Marizza’s skills in and out of the classroom are precisely what BASIS.ed managed schools are about – and we are thrilled that the White House is recognizing her!”

IMG_1912Mathematics runs deeply in Bailey’s family. Her mother earned a bachelor’s of science in mathematics, and Bailey’s maternal grandmother had a doctorate in math education and taught math for 43 years in Lima, Peru. Bailey herself has written that “I love math so much, I married it.” It’s a wink towards her husband, Paul Bailey, who teaches math and computer science at BASIS Mesa. Paul has a doctorate in math, also from UC Irvine, and Bailey says their courtship involved “talking about math and solving problems on restaurant napkins” and, later, “a whiteboard in our kitchen” to work on problems and solutions. Bailey also notes that their four daughters (including their youngest, a senior at BASIS Scottsdale) have opted to focus their studies on the likes of zoology, art, music, and veterinary medicine instead of mathematics, perhaps because of the years of incessant math talk during their childhood.

According to the White House website, the PAEMSTs recognize teachers like Bailey who “develop and implement a high-quality instructional program that is informed by content knowledge and enhances student learning.” This year, 213 teachers were honored – about four from each state and U.S. territory, including two K-6 teachers and two grades 7-12 teachers.

Marizza Bailey and some of her students at BASIS Scottsdale.
Marizza Bailey with a group of adoring and congratulatory students.

Bailey said she found out she won the eminent award a week before it was announced “and jumped up and down for about a minute” when she took the call. Bailey had known that her former BASIS Scottsdale Head of School Elizabeth McConaghy (now the HOS at BASIS Scottsdale Primary), nominated her for the award two years ago.

McConaghy herself said that “I nominated Marizza because she is always pushing the boundaries of what can be taught to high school students in math classes! As more and more students finished calculus in their sophomore and junior year, Marizza eagerly developed new courses, year after year, in order to meet the needs of her students. I found it inspiring – and I know the students, families, and her peers do as well.”

“I am so pleased that Marizza is being recognized at the national level for what we have the pleasure of seeing daily: her passion, enthusiasm, dedication, and skill in teaching mathematics,” HOS Jordison added.

Winners of the prestigious award receive a certificate signed by the President, $10,000 from the National Science Foundation, and a trip for two in early September to Washington, D.C. which includes festivities at the White House, visits with members of the Administration, and the awards ceremony on September 8th.

Phil Handler


  1. Congratulations Marizza. Math teachers: Putting the “FUN” in FUNCTIONS since t=0 !
    Jeff Richards, Head of Operations
    BASIS San Antonio North Central

  2. CONGRATULATION ‘ Basis has wonderful and excellent teachers that while I love sending my grandchildren there a wonderful school and the teacher and staff members work hard with our kids

  3. Great news! Congratulations,

    My daughter just stared in grade K at BASIS

  4. Very proud moment for all of us – basis loving parents… Congratulations Mrs. Marriza, You deserve it

  5. Mrs. Bailey – Congratulations! Thank you for inspiring the minds of our youth! Lauren has enjoyed your classes… We are very thankful she’s had the opportunity to have you as her teacher past & present! Here’s to another great year at BASIS Scottsdale!

  6. Congratulations!!! What a great honor. We are so happy to share your joy. The Takoushian Family

  7. Mrs. Bailey, all these years, BASIS students are able to access their greatest potential due to the excellent instruction of teachers like you, the best in the country. This recognition was well-deserved. Sunskruthi is extremely fortunate to have you as her role model and teacher. Congratulations!

  8. Congratulations Ms. Bailey!!! You deserve it and much much more!!!

  9. Mrs. Bailey, Thank you for your amazing contribution to the education of our youth! Congratulations on your award and recognition, it is well deserved. Amy

  10. Thank you for nurturing the mathematical mind of our youth!

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