FAIRFIELD — Peter G. Shanazu, a Fairfield native and Warde math teacher, received a presidential award for teaching at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. last week.

According to the White House, the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching recognizes distinction in the classroom and dedication to improving education. It is the highest award given by the government to kindergarten through 12th grade teachers of math and science.

After being nominated by a student, Shanazu entered into a three-year application process, where he was assessed by a panel of mathematicians, scientists and educators who recommend nominees to the Office of the President.

Shanazu joined 214 other winners of the award this year, including three others from Connecticut.

Shanazu has been an educator for 16 years, teaching in Bridgeport, Fairfield, and as an adjunct professor at Fairfield University. He has taught every level of math, from pre-algebra to multivariable calculus.

As a math teacher, Shanazu strives to create a classroom that inspires students to tackle what many find a difficult subject.

“Most kids hate math, most people hate math, but I really want to provide an atmosphere where students are excited to walk in everyday,” Shanazu said.

He likes to work one-on-one with students, always going over tests individually with each students to dive into why they missed the questions they did.

“I really strive to take habitual underachieving learners and get a lot of achievement out of them,” Shanazu said.

Shanazu is himself a product of the Fairfield Public Schools and a proud alum of Holland Hill, Tomlinson and Fairfield High School.

“Some of the exemplars of my teaching career and people I have modeled my teaching style after are Fairfield math teachers,” Shanazu said. “The kindness and compassion they showed really inspired me to become the teacher that I am.”

Amidst the praise, Shanazu was also quick to recognize his Warde colleagues that he said he truly shares this award with.

“This is a validation for the teaching practices of not only myself, but all of the members of my department and of my school that are doing phenomenal things and going unrecognized,” he said.

Warde Headmaster Paul Cavanna praised Shanazu in a letter to the Warde community last week.

“Please join me in congratulating Mr. Shanazu on this well-deserved accomplishment,” Cavanna wrote. “He truly articulates the Warde acronym of being Welcoming, Academic, Respectful, Dynamic and Ethical.”

The Board of Education honored Shanazu at its Tuesday meeting, thanking him for his dedication to the community.

“It really is a tremendous honor not only for Mr. Shanazu, but also for the Fairfield Public Schools,” said Schools Superintendent Mike Cummings.

Shanazu’s award gave Fairfield schools even more to be proud of, adding to the Oct. 8 news of Roger Ludlowe High School alum Dr. William G. Kaelin Jr. winning the Nobel Prize for medicine.

“It has been a banner month for the Fairfield Public Schools,” said Board of Education Chair Christine Vitale. “To receive national and international recognition at this level is really something to be very excited about.”

rscharf@hearstmediact.com