NAGT > Awards > 2018 Section & State Winners

2018 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award Winners

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Outstanding Earth Science Teacher (OEST) awards are given for "exceptional contributions to the stimulation of interest in the Earth Sciences at the pre-college level." Any teacher or other K-12 educator who covers a significant amount of Earth science content with their students is eligible. Ten national finalists are selected, one from each NAGT regional section. Some sections also recognize state winners. Individuals may submit an application themselves or nominate a colleague for the award.

Nominations may be submitted at any time during the year, however some sections need this information as early as March in order to consider the applicant for the current calendar year. The official nomination form and supporting materials should be sent to the sectional OEST chair or to the NAGT Executive Director. An online nomination form is available at the NAGT website.
The National Association of Geoscience Teachers gives each OEST awardee a plaque and a two-year membership in the Association, which includes a subscription to the online Journal of Geoscience Education. Other NAGT awards vary from section to section and among states within sections. In addition, the Geological Society of America provides a monetary award and a 3-year Teachers Associate Membership (including membership in the Geoscience Education Division), and the National Earth Science Teachers Association provides a two-year membership, which includes a subscription to the Earth Scientist. The following organizations provide tangible support of various kinds such as teaching materials or gifts: American Geological Institute, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Professional Geologists, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

SECTION WINNERS

Central Section - Collin Reichert

Collin Reichert has been teaching science since 2011. He completed his undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico in 2007, and in 2011 completed a master's degree from Iowa State University in geology, and a second masters degree in science education. His teaching is based on a foundation of educational research in inquiry, the nature of science, and project based learning. Over his career as an educator, Collin has received various teaching awards including multiple Excellence in Science Teaching Awards from the Iowa Academy of Science, and the 2015 Dan Woodin Excellence in Education Award for the Ames Community School District.

Mr. Reichert believes that education is a vital part of society and should promote student engagement with the broader local community to the fullest extent possible. He requires his students develop and complete community impact projects where science content is learned or applied in the creation of products or services addressing authentic needs or desires of the community. His teaching of fundamentally important ideas is developed with carefully crafted lessons taking into consideration students' prior knowledge, thinking, experiences, skills, self-efficacy, and emotional states. From there students partake in hands-on and minds-on activities that follow desired conceptual pathways from students' current thinking to the desired thinking. Fundamental ideas cannot be fully comprehended without an investigation into the ways of knowing, or the nature, of particular disciplines. This often-neglected aspect of education is essential to deep and robust understanding of fundamental ideas: what we know can't be rightfully understood without examining how we know it. He is perhaps most passionate about teaching the nature of science to his students.

Collaborating with colleagues sharing similar passions for education, Mr. Reichert has helped found a non-profit called The Community Academy dedicated to exploring and implementing the future of education in Iowa.


Eastern Section - Tom Gazda

Tom Gazda has taught Earth Science and Physics in upstate New York for 17 years. Coming to teaching as a second career, he is intensely focused on one goal: to build a lifelong interest in the physical world in his students. Knowing that the key to good science learning is hands-on experiences, he immediately set out double student class time on hands-on activities. He wrote new labs from scratch, scrapped old tired ones and re-worked others, all with the goal of more - and more meaningful - hands-on experiences for his students.

Mr. Gazda strives to show students the wonder of the physical world and how it works. He recognizes that showing real-world examples is the backbone of any successful science class. To do this he began filming videos outside the classroom as a way to expand the scope of his lessons beyond the 4-walls of his room. As YouTube and other online platforms grew, he spent hours scouring the internet for videos that could help bring the real world into the classroom, building an extensive library of high-quality science videos.

To share these resources with other teachers, in 2016 he built his own website. Focusing on his motto of "The world is big, your classroom is small," GazdonianProductions.com is designed to present "Best of the Web" teaching resources. While some of the resources on the site are content he has created (The Sand Lab), most are from a wide variety of sources, from top-tier professional organizations to the backyard DIY-er with a Smartphone. Such a wide variety of material helps teachers present a rich and diverse learning environment for their students, leading to deeper student engagement.


Far Western Section - Diane Tom-Ogata

Diane Tom-Ogata has been in education for over 20 years teaching pre-school for 8+ years, K-2 for 2 years and Science/STEM Service Learning in high school the past 14 years. She is also advisor to the LEO Club and STEM Club and a member of the School Community Council. Ms. Tom-Ogata has been a Teacher Facilitator under the Maui Economical Development Board/Women in Technology STEMworks program for 10 years. This unique program has students find their passion on how to make the world a better place and infuses technology for successful projects which range from conceptual to actually real-world applications.

ōlelo no'eau #203
'A'ohe pau ka 'ike i ka hālau ho'okahi
All knowledge is not taught in the same school
One can learn from many sources

The heart of her teaching is integrated culture plus base STEM where there is a strong belief that understanding the world around them and experiential discovery, learning outside of the 4-walls of a classroom, can, and will, make an impact to inspire students to learn.

'Ōlelo No'eau #2088
Ma ka hana ka 'ike
In working one learns

Ms. Tom-Ogata aspires to excite the minds of students by merging teaching methodologies that will hook students at all levels, activities and desires. Hence, she actively pursues professional development and community partnerships for herself and students. The objective: to cross fertilize the expected Western pedagogy, and merge sense of place with ancestral and indigenous knowledge producing students who value who they are, where they've come from and better engage and understand what and why they are learning.

I ka wa mamua, ka wa mahope
The future is in the past


Midcontinent Section - Angie D Nelson

Angie D. Nelson has been teaching for 5 years in Wichita, KS. She previously taught special education for English in high school and elementary school, 4th and 5th grade, but found a passion for middle school science in 2016. She graduated from Cowley County Community College with honors and then went on to Wichita State University where she graduated with honors with an elementary education degree. Ms. Nelson was chosen by the University to study at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, for pre-service teachers where she learned science lessons directly from NASA trainers. She received a Good Apple Award from her district for outstanding work in her first year of teaching. She was nominated for Distinguished Classroom Teacher by her principal in 2018, an award that leads to Kansas Teacher of the Year. "I believe that science is an opening for students to begin to feel safe academically. It may be challenging but students find that the ability to inquire, experiment and make conclusions are skills that they can carry out even if they don't feel like they are good in school," she stated. She tries to make earth science in her classroom as interactive as possible by creating new ways for students to connect science topics with the real world which includes hands-on labs or virtual experiences. Students often find that they have been scientists their whole lives but never really knew it. She is that teacher that will guide and support them in their expeditions through the world of earth science and have so much fun doing it. "The best part about my job is watching kids figure out how the earth works using their own curiosities."


New England Section - Melanie Cutler

Melanie Cutler has been teaching Environmental Science and Biology at Andover High School for 14 years. She has a BS in Biology from Bates College and a Master of Environmental Management degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Her true passion is teaching Environmental Science, especially focusing on the positive actions that we humans can take to improve our environment. In her Environmental Sustainability Internship Course, each student is paired with a community member to work on a project that improves sustainability in their town. In addition to teaching, Melanie also advises the school's Environmental Club, started the AHS Sustainable Garden Project, and is a member of the town's Green Advisory Board.


North CentralSection - Natalie Davis-McGrath

Natalie Davis-McGrath currently teaches Earth and Survival Science at Park High School in Livingston, Montana. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Geoscience from West Chester University, a B.S. in Secondary Education from Montana State University, and a M.S. in Science Education from Montana State. In 2017, the Montana Environmental Educator Association named her the Outdoor Educator of the Year. She served as the Earth Science Liaison to the Montana State Science Teachers Association from 2014-2017. Natalie is also a two-time Montana State teachers conference presenter.

Ms. Davis-McGrath's teaching philosophy focuses around encouraging all students to learn and inspire them through STEM based projects, labs and fieldwork. She endeavors to create learning environments where she is able to adapt to her students by providing rigor to challenge them as well as being current with new science trends. She enjoys bringing her students to Yellowstone River and Yellowstone National Park each year to give students a connection to the natural world. One of these new trends is a course she developed with her colleagues called Survival Science. In this course most of the teaching time is spent outdoors where students learn by doing, building and creating. She finds that students are engaged through learning practical skills where they can experience the benefits immediately.

Ms. Davis-McGrath volunteers in her community in a variety of activities by bringing geo-centric teaching opportunities to children in her areas through such activities as teaching Geology at Daley Lake Kids Day, Big Sky Youth Empowerment, sister city Japan exchange, and avalanche training at Gallatin Avalanche Center.


Pacific Northwest Section - Jeff Karlin

Jeff Karlin began teaching the sciences on the Oregon Coast after earning two degrees from Lewis-Clark State College. Before leaving Oregon in 1998, he was awarded Midwestern League Coach of the Year and Oregon National Wrestling Coach. He have spent the last two decades in his hometown of Lewiston, Idaho teaching Astronomy, Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, Geology, Marine Biology, Natural Science, Physics, and Zoology. He teaches all courses utilizing the Project-Based Inquiry Learning (PBIL) approach. Since 2010, he has done Mars analog field research with multiple NASA research teams. In 2014, he was named Research Team Teacher Lead for NASA FINESSE (Field Investigations ENabling Solar System Exploration). In 2016, he was then named Field Support Team Lead for NASA BASALT (Biological Analog Study Associated with Lava Terrains). These missions take place on various active volcanoes and lava fields in preparation for upcoming Mars surface exploration. In 2015, he was nominated for the Global Teaching Prize and named Idaho finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). In 2017, he was awarded Idaho Biology Teacher of the Year by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT). For the last five years he have served as served as Lead Teacher Mentor for the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars (ISAS).

Mr. Karlin is an avid sculptor and wildlife painter, having recently completed my first solo art exhibit. In addition to the visual arts, he recorded two albums as a member of a successful a cappella group, played guitar and keyboards in various bands, taken lead roles in community theatre, and competed in several triathlons. His greatest joy centers on raising his five children with his beautiful wife, Holly!


Southeastern Section - Phillip Cox

Phillip Cox does an exemplary job in teaching the connections between the classroom and real life. He uses real data, photographs (not stock photos), and field experiences to educate students, adults, and fellow teachers. His degrees in Geology, Science Education, and Environmental Education provide him the tools to present relevant hands-on earth science teaching experiences while adjusting his presentation to various levels of learners in his classroom and in the community.


Southwest Section - David Thesenga

David Thesenga has been teaching Earth Science both primarily and through Physics and Chemistry for 20 years to both middle and high school students. He has taught in both public and private schools in California, New York, Illinois, and currently Colorado. From 2000-'04, he acted as a lead curriculum developer and writer for the NSF-funded 7-10 Project of the California PreCollege Science Initiative (CAPSI) at the California Institute of Technology. He currently teaches 8th grade Earth Science at Alexander Dawson School in Lafayette, Colorado. Mr. Thesenga earned a BS in Geophysics from the University of Alaska and a Master of Science in Teaching at Boston College - completing his student teaching at Christian Brothers College (CBC), a secondary school in Freemantle, Australia.

In 2002, Mr. Thesenga was named Teacher of the Year by the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa and was recognized by the California State Legislature as an Outstanding Teacher of the Year. As a 2013 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator, he worked at the NSF Geoscience Directorate on GLOBE teacher development and increasing student earth science information retention utilizing models. In 2016, as a PolarTREC teacher, Mr. Thesenga traveled to Antarctica to research flow and fracture dynamics within the McMurdo Shear Zone, bringing the experience and the research back to his students live from the ice shelf. As a GIFT recipient, he presented at the 2014 & 2018 European Geosciences Union annual meeting in Vienna, Austria — most recently on using an augmented reality sandbox to model the 2013 Colorado Front Range Floods. He has also been a ground breaking recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Palm Corporation that placed handheld technology in the classroom as part of a long-term water quality study in the Los Angeles National Forest.

As a teacher he strives to push his students far beyond what they thought was possible. His fellow teachers often say things like "I can't believe you are doing this!" or "How did you get them [the students] to do this?" From building workable suspension bridges of PVC pipe, cardboard and fishing line that the students ride tricycles across to 8-foot tall geodesic spheres to massive 3D models of Antarctica, He believes that science should be just as big and exciting as the world that they live in today. As a middle school science teacher, he has been able to work with students in both urban and suburban schools, public and private, but regardless he has found that students underestimate themselves and, unfortunately, teachers and districts can often underestimate them as well. It is part of his philosophy that all individuals are both life-long learners and life-long scientists – and that the distinction between the two can and should be blurred.

He believes that learning is a cumulative process and that in order to be successful, students need to appreciate the interconnectedness of topics and concepts, to see what the terms mean and how they interact with one another. He believes that understanding the "why" and the "how" is more important than memorizing facts and figures that can (and normally are) looked up. As a teacher, he says that some of his primary responsibilities are to show students (and other teachers) that those things they think are impossible are, in reality, possible; to instill in them a sense of curiosity about the world around them; to encourage them to question and to seek out answers, and finding their own answers when possible; and a belief in self, that they can do this or that - they are possible.

An avid mountaineer, climber, and trekker, Mr. Thesenga enjoys the outdoors and traveling with a passion. He has traveled to over 34 different countries on all seven continents discovering amazing cultures, complex people, and intriguing places. His travels and experiences naturally fold into his classroom enriching both his teaching and his students.


TexasSection - Sabrina Ewald

Sabrina Ewald has been teaching for 18 years and currently teaches Earth and Space Science, AP Environmental Science, and Astronomy in Frisco, TX. She earned her B.S. and M.S. in education and science at Louisiana Tech University, where she began her studies in geology before changing to secondary science education. She was named teacher of the year by AAPG in 2015 and is a previous section winner for NAGT's OEST. In summer of 2018, Ms. Ewald was selected for the NASA TEX2 Externship in which she will be working with high school students and NASA scientists.

To promote more interest in science on campus, Ms. Ewald founded the CHS STEM club in an effort to expose students to the diversity of STEM related careers and encourage participation in STEM competitions and activities. In her classroom, students can expect to learn by participating in hands-on lessons and inquiry based assignments. In every subject she teaches, students are authentically learning through exploration and investigation. Whether her students conduct field testing to study water quality or her earth science classes explore the local geology, she wants students to learn from first-hand experiences. Technology plays a critical role in facilitating student inquiry. A grant from Wells Fargo was used to build an AR Sandbox for students to have a more hands-on approach when studying topography, geomorphology, and hydrology. Sabrina also employs student-centered learning when teaching for the Duke TIP program each summer. She has served as an instructor for several science courses, including one she designed to give students an in depth look at the fossil fuel and mining industry. To help continuously evolve lessons, Ms. Ewald uses her experiences from attending countless field workshops, including Geology Camp with Texas A&M, TMRA mining workshops, and also her own travels throughout the world in order to bring geology to life. Her students know that she too a life-long learner and is dedicated to making earth science a fun and exciting adventure.


STATE WINNERS

Arizona - Matt Haverty

After receiving a BS in Geology from the University of Illinois in 1996, Matt Haverty moved to the southwest and earned his MA in Education from Chapman University in Tucson, Arizona. He has been teaching Earth and Environmental Science at Amphitheater High School ever since, striving to provide his students with a better understanding of and appreciation for the processes of the Earth with the hopes that this will help them develop as informed decision makers in this era of science skepticism. With a STEM focus and a one-to-one computer to student ratio, his classes are hands-on and research-based. One on-going project requires students to track natural hazards as they occur and complete geographic risk assessments for the areas affected; each hazard is then plotted on a classroom map. Students are also engaged in engineering and topographic design projects and applications with 3D printers, as well as a campus Geocaching project and field work in the geologically and environmentally diverse Sonoran Desert.

Mr. Haverty is continually updating his curriculum through community partnerships: University of Arizona Medical Center, Tucson Water Company, Project WET Arizona, University of Arizona Department of Optical Sciences, and Northern Arizona University Department of Biology, where he co-authored an article in FEMS Microbiology Ecology, an analysis of biodiversity in southwestern desert soils. When not teaching, Matt enjoys coaching tennis, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and camping in the Sonoran Desert and other beautiful public lands and waters of the American west.


California - Leonard Bloch

Len Bloch's eclectic background belies a unified vision of science, society, and education. During his 26-year teaching career, he has taught every academic subject and every age from pre-school to post-graduate. Still, he always returns to middle school science.

He earned a Bachelor's in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master's in Social Studies Education from Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Science Education from the University of Georgia. The digression into social studies education served him well in his subsequent dissertation on climate change education. He argued that humanity encounters the rest of nature as a force of nature, and that the dynamic relationship between humanity and nature changes both.

Dr. Bloch's effort to unite the natural and social sciences plays out in his teaching practice, for instance when his students conduct a mock trial under the endangered species act. In short, he is committed to preparing young people to face the challenges of life on a changing planet, and he thinks Earth Science education is key to that larger project.

In addition to teaching, he is a docent at Año Nuevo and Castle Rock State Parks. His two Ted-Ed videos have garnered over one million views.


Colorado - Stephanie Seevers

Stephanie Seevers earned her Geology degree from UC Santa Barbara and worked briefly in petroleum and environmental consulting before enrolling in the Math and Science Teacher Education Program at San Jose State University. She began teaching high school science at her own former high school in San Jose, CA in 1998, and then moved to Colorado in 2001, where she has been teaching, off and on while raising children, at Evergreen High School ever since.

Ms. Seevers is passionate about helping students to connect to earth science in real and tangible ways, whether that means bringing the Earth into the classroom or bringing the students out to the Earth. She tries to make these connections by developing labs and activities that utilize real data sets and/or real data collection, taking students into the field, and developing and teaching curriculum for the Outdoor Education Lab School.


Georgia - Brenda Paul

Brenda Paul is a sixth grade earth science teacher in Johns Creek, Georgia. In her nine years of teaching, she has taught middle school science in rural, urban, and suburban schools. The variety of school settings provided her with the opportunity to develop student activities that engage and inspire a broad spectrum of students! One of the greatest lessons she learned was that a passionate teacher cannot avoid spreading her enthusiasm.

Ms. Paul completed both her graduate and undergraduate degrees at the University of Georgia in science education and middle grades education. She has continued to further her education by earning gifted endorsement, attending IB training, and earning educator certifications from both Google and Apple. During her summers, she often attends science professional development programs, including UGA programs focused on scientific study of the Georgia barrier islands.

Ms. Paul enjoys sharing her knowledge through both local and national professional development in addition to growing her personal understanding of science and technology. She pursues these goals through leading professional development within her school district, and presenting on science and technology at the NSTA STEM Forum & Expo, the NSTA Conference, GaETC, the EdTech Southern Summit, and the Georgia Middle School Association Conference.


Idaho - Marc Brousseau

Marc Brousseau graduated from Boise State University in 1999 with a major in Physical Education K-12. He then went and taught two years of middle school physical education. He did not believe he was having the impact on children he was striving for because he did not have enough contact with the students. So, he started working on my master's degree at the University of South Carolina and graduated in 2004 with a Master of Education in Elementary. After that he taught 3rd grade for four years. Next, he moved back to Idaho in 2008, where Mr. Brousseau have taught three years at 4th grade and 7 years at grade 5th grade. Other academic honors include in 2014 he became a Fellow of the National Writing Project.


Illinois - Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson received his B.S. in Earth and Environmental Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his Master of Arts in Education from National Louis University. He taught Physics at Perspectives Charter Schools for four years, and in the fall of 2016, began teaching at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago. Mr. Peterson currently teaches Environmental Science to seventh-grade Academic Center students at Whitney Young. His class aims to translate college-level Geology to a middle-school audience, with the ultimate goal for students to be able to synthesize the material and be able to identify the basic geologic history of an area while on a hike with their family over summer break.


Kentucky - Cayeann Cowan

As an educator, Cayeann Cowan has always believed in being a lifelong learner. Her philosophy is promoting positive learning through student engagement and student ownership, thus providing a foundation for success. To achieve this foundation, Mrs. Cowan applies a wide variety of learning strategies based on educational best practices: hands-on instruction, critical thinking, practice, and exploration. Teaching is her passion, therefore, she teaches with desire, compassion, and enthusiasm to impact all learners.

Mrs. Cowan completed her undergrad and graduate work at Northern Kentucky University. Mrs. Cowan is a veteran teacher with 14 years of service teaching science and math. Currently, she teaches at Robertson County School grades 6th - 12th Science. Her extracurricular activities include being the robotics sponsor, yearbook developer, Class of 2021 sponsor, middle and high school academic teams and Governor's Cup coach, tutor and provides ESS as needed.

Mrs. Cowan's teaching honors include: 2019 and 2017 Valvoline Teaching Excellence Award, Top 24 High School 2019 and Top 24 Middle School 2017 finalist for Kentucky Teacher of the Year, 2012 Northern Kentucky Education Association Teacher of the Year, 2009 Pendleton County Conservation Teacher of the Year, 2007 AD Albright Middle School Teacher of the Year and 2007 Golden Apple Award.


Louisiana - Lacey Hoosier

Teaching science to grades 8-12 has been part of Ms. Hoosier's life for the past 12 years in central Louisiana. Her current position as the Science Department Chair and AP/DE Science Teacher at her alma mater - Buckeye High School. Recently, she was honored to be named the NABT Ecology/Environmental Science Award recipient and will be receiving this award in San Diego at the NABT Conference. Last year, she was awarded the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award for Louisiana and received this honor in St Louis. She has also been named Teacher of the Year at both of the schools where she taught during her my career. Her degrees are a MS in Physiology from Northwestern State & a BS in Biology from LSU at Alexandria.

Ms. Hoosier's teaching philosophy is to ignite a passion for learning and questioning everything in her students. She wants them to love science and all it entails. She challenge them to grow to their fullest potential and to become more than even their goals allow. Be more, do more, change more. It's what we need: change. Her teaching practices include: project-based learning that connects lessons with real-world applications, inquiry-based learning, higher order thinking & problem solving skills, hands-on laboratory based differentiated learning, active learning through peer review, discussion groups & collaborative learning, and innovative technology use to differentiate learning while tailoring to student needs.


Minnesota - Dan Gruhlke

Dan Gruhlke has taught over three decades with 25 of those in kindergarten. He achieved his M.S. in Early Education, B.S. in Elementary Education, as well as a B.A. in other education. He is honored to be recognized by NAGT as the 2018 Minnesota OEST. He's also a current PAEMST nominee, and received the Education Minnesota Foundation Bruce Vento Science Educator Professional Development grant and recognized with four previous Foundation Excellence in Teaching grants. He has presented to the Minnesota Head Start Association, Wright County Community Action Head Start, Project Learning Tree workshops, and is a University of Minnesota Extension Master Naturalist Facilitator.

Mr Gruhlke's mission statement says that he believes "kids live in the world" of "experience and wonder" and that his "mission is to provide kids the experience and education to probe the why's, what's, and wonderments of our world". "Are we going outside today, Mr. G.?" is a common question. It's no wonder, or rather, it's all wonder, considering we observe clouds, record weather, distinguish trees, and observe acorn weevil larva that some called their "little babies." Kindergartners are full of wonder. They're naturally (pun intended) scientists. And, after all isn't that what we're all about?


New Mexico - Anna Suggs

Anna Suggs has been teaching for 26 years in the Las Cruces Public School district. All 26 years have been at the middle school level. She has primarily taught science but has also taught social studies, math, language arts, and STEM. She was the 2012 National Presidential Awardee for elementary science, and also the 2016 New Mexico Academy of Science outstanding science teacher. Ms. Suggs has a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Animal Science and a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from New Mexico State University. Outside of school hours she sponsors the LEGO league team, Science Engineering Math and Aerospace Academy. These clubs give kids who are interested in science more opportunities to explore their areas of interest in science and engineering.

Ms. Suggs believes that students can only learn science by becoming scientists themselves. Providing students with the experiences of exploring scientific principles and phenomena is the foundations of creating future scientists and engineers. Allowing students to do research in our community fosters greater appreciation for our local ecology and geology as well as the practice of creating real-world scientific data. Students use the collected data as well as research data gathered by other scientists to reach conclusions about the health of our unique rift valley ecosystem.


New York - Tom Gazda

Tom Gazda has taught Earth Science and Physics in upstate New York for 17 years. Coming to teaching as a second career, he is intensely focused on one goal: to build a lifelong interest in the physical world in his students. Knowing that the key to good science learning is hands-on experiences, he immediately set out double student class time on hands-on activities. He wrote new labs from scratch, scrapped old tired ones and re-worked others, all with the goal of more - and more meaningful - hands-on experiences for his students.

Mr. Gazda strives to show students the wonder of the physical worldand how it works. He recognizes that showing real-world examples is the backbone of any successful science class. To do this he began filming videos outside the classroom as a way to expand the scope of his lessons beyond the 4-walls of his room. As YouTube and other online platforms grew, he spent hours scouring the internet for videos that could help bring the real world into the classroom, building an extensive library of high-quality science videos.

To share these resources with other teachers, in 2016 he built his own website. Focusing on his motto of "The world is big, your classroom is small," GazdonianProductions.com is designed to present "Best of the Web" teaching resources. While some of the resources on the site are content he has created (The Sand Lab), most are from a wide variety of sources, from top-tier professional organizations to the backyard DIY-er with a Smartphone. Such a wide variety of material helps teachers present a rich and diverse learning environment for their students, leading to deeper student engagement.


North Carolina - Phillip Cox

Phillip Cox does an exemplary job in teaching the connections between the classroom and real life. He uses real data, photographs (not stock photos), and field experiences to educate students, adults, and fellow teachers. His degrees in geology, science education, and Environmental Education provide him the tools to present relevant hands-on earth science teaching experiences while adjusting his presentation to various levels of learners in his classroom and in the community.


Oregon - Connie Robbins

Connie Robbins has been teaching the sciences and art at Crane Union High School for eight years. She believe students should develop a personal sense of learning in the areas that are best suited for them and she, as a teacher can help students gain that experience by providing opportunities to allow students to explore those areas. Teaching in a small school setting in Harney County allows her to be flexible in opportunities and help students begin to explore their "living spaces" and beyond.

Projects Ms. Robbins has developed with colleagues that has been instrumental in providing these opportunities are ongoing. One project they developed was a portable science lab designed to be loaned to rural school teachers in Harney County to be used for outdoor education purposes, a multi-grade level K-8 NGSS curriculum that best addressed their needs, and a project-based learning opportunity [with interns for high school students] for testing well water for TDS, temperature, and isotopes to aid the USGS study on water in the Harney Basin.

As a result of these projects and others, Ms. Robbins was awarded the 2015 Harney County Educator of the Year and the 2017 Oregon Science Teachers Association Duane Marshall Award for Special Service to Science Education. She is especially proud to accept the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award for Oregon.


Puerto Rico - Elizabeth Torres-Rodriguez

Elizabeth Torres-Rodriguez teaches 10-12th grade Biology, Chemistry, Environmental and Earth Science in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she has been teaching 26 years in the same school. She has a master's degree in environmental science from University of Puerto Rico Medical Science Campus, and a graduate certification in meteorology from Penn State University. Her teaching philosophy is to make science fun for her students which she always considers when developing lessons and activities, but also her philosophy is her personal reminder of what's important in science to her. She said this guides her career and helps to construct the classroom policies and environment. In her classroom she makes good use of science talk which includes questions, promotes discussion where she always try to expand the students' ideas. She divides her teaching philosophy in three parts: curriculum, instructional, and learning assessment.

Since Hurricane Maria impacted the island last year, Mrs. Torres-Rodriguez started new professional workshops for teachers focusing in tropical climate, collecting different scientific resources and preparing a variety of instructional materials to help schools to prepare for another similar disaster. She is working to create a system where teachers can be in radio communications, and encourage them to know the emergency standard procedure to every school on the island.

Also due to the disaster the island lost many crops. Ms. Torres-Rodriguez started a program with her students to identify different agricultural techniques to recover the different crops and to help farmers. With teachers and university collaborators, she started the use of drones to mark different areas in the island to try to find better areas to plant again and have food in case of another disaster. Her instructional strategies in the classroom include project-based learning, discovery/Inquiry-based learning, field experience, field trip, or field study, because right now she believes teachers need to immerse the student in the reality they live since the disaster occured and have the tools to react to emergencies.

Ms. Torres-Rodriquez is a part of NASAS's Puerto Rico Space Grant Consortium for the DOE, providing support for NASA related event throughout the whole island with many NASA KSC initiatives to develop different professional workshops for teachers.


South Carolina - Robin Wright

Robin Wright teaches third-grade science at Roebuck Elementary School in Spartanburg County District 6, South Carolina. As an eighteen-year veteran teacher, she utilizes her passion and creativity to create a classroom environment where all students thrive. Although teaching all subjects, earth science is her particular area of interest and through use of innovative integrated curriculum strategies, she routinely manages to incorporate science concepts into other classroom activities. Ms. Wright uses a variety of inquiry-based learning strategies and technologies to motivate and challenge students. One such lesson involves student cooperative groups using 'play-clay' to construct model landforms. Each table has a laptop open to a folder with 8-10 pictures of a particular landform. Students view the various images, and then use the clay to model their own versions. She also incorporates games, songs, art projects, and instructional versions of computer games such as "Minecraft" to build interest among students.

Ms. Wright started a recycling program at the school eleven years ago and has organized science fairs and 'STEAM' nights at the school and also sponsors the school 'LEGO Robotics Club'. She is a school leader in the "Project Lead the Way' initiative, and she also finds time to participate in various community activities.


Tennessee - Jana Young

Jana Young graduated from Murray State University with a degree in Middle Science School Education. For the Academic Academy at Northeast Middle School in Jackson, Tennessee, a program for gifted students, she teaches high school credit Environmental Science to her eighth graders and seventh grade advanced science. She also mentors new and pre-service teachers.

Ms. Young received an award from NCEA for helping students earn high scores in both growth and performance. She earned recognition as Tennessee Lottery's Teacher of the Week. She received the Jaguar Vision Award and NMS Teacher of the Year. Jana presented at a Collaborative Center for Literacy Development Conference in Louisville on improving literacy in adolescent education in science. She presents science and technology professional development in her school and district. Jana worked with a team of science teachers and state leaders to develop trainings for the new science standards for the Tennessee Department of Education. She also facilitats these statewide trainings.

As an integral part of her school, Ms. Young helped to establish a hands-on science program, as well as piloting Environmental Science for gifted eighth graders. Finding great value in after-school programs, she serves as teacher representative for the PTO, Junior Beta sponsor, Destination Imagination team manager, and Academic Pentathlon team coach. Ms. Young uses her experiences from her hobbies as a hiker, weight lifter, and goat rancher in her classroom.


Virginia - Jeanette Dellinger

Jeanette Dellinger has been teaching for eight years. In 2007 she eared a B.S. in Geology with a minor in Environmental Sciences from Virginia Tech, and in 2017 a M.A.Ed. in Science Curriculum and Instruction from Virginia Tech. She taught high school Earth Science for the past five years, and helped bring back Geology as an upperclassman elective at her school. Three years ago, she helped students at her school start a science club and an Envirothon team. She strives to demonstrate best practices through her teaching and classroom structure. She believes students should have engaging opportunities to explore concepts through guided inquiry-based activities. She also aims to provide opportunities for students to understand how the concepts they explore are used in and relate to the world around them. This year, her students have been able to talk to three Smithsonian scientists, a NASA JPL engineer, and to PHD students investigating ocean currents and remote sensing.

Ms. Dellinger in 2008-2010 completed hydrogeophysics research through a NSF fellowship while working on a M.S. at Rutgers University. In 2017 she earned NBCT in AYA Science Curriculum and Instruction, and in 2018 received a Stafford Education Grant to develop opportunities for 2018-2019 Geology students to explore, analyze, and interpret local geology.


Wisconsin - Dennis Rohr

Dennis Rohr is in his 28th year of teaching science – (Marion Jr/Sr High School – 10 yrs and the past 18 years at Seymour HS, Seymour, WI). He earned his bachelor's degree from UW Stevens Point in 1990 and his master's degree in Environmental Science – Solid Waste Management from UW-Green Bay in 1998. He was awarded a 2006 Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship, and is a three-time Greater Green Bay Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction. Currently, Mr. Rohr is the Wisconsin Earth Science Teachers Association (WESTA) Chairperson for the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers (WSST). He developed an online resource of K-12 earth and space science links and apps found on the WSST homepage under the "Resources" tab. Mr. Rohr is recipient of seven different state level student action-research grants, including a $10,000 Toyota TAPESTRY Large Grant in 2007 and a WSST Pella Grant in 2018.

Since 2003, he and his students have been providing drinking water testing as a community service while researching groundwater issues, including some of the highest naturally-occurring arsenic levels in Wisconsin and the entire United States. Their data discovered a previously unknown high concentration of naturally-occurring strontium in Brown County, Wisconsin. Their research was highlighted in front-page articles of major Wisconsin newspapers. Mr. Rohr is incredibly honored to be selected for this award, but owes his success to the amazing teachers he has worked with, from student teaching in Waupaca to Marion to Seymour. His Environmental Science professors at UWGB were second to none. He also would like to thank his amazing family – his wife, Janice, a Head Start teacher; Katelyn, a senior at UW-Stevens Point; and Haley, a freshman at UW-Milwaukee. The family loves working in the yard, camping, traveling, and just spending time together.


OEST State and Section winners are strongly encouraged to take an active role in NAGT, NESTA, and all other organizations that support the OEST Award Program.

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