Initial Publication Date: December 12, 2013

2011 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.


Central Section

No award in 2011

Eastern Section

Rose Sanders holds an MS Ed degree in science education from University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and has been teaching for twelve years. She currently teaches 8th grade science for Longfellow Middle School in Mount Vernon, New York. She is a Solar System Ambassador for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a DLESE Ambassador. She is a member of numerous professional associations including STANYS, GSA, NAGT, NSTA, NESTA, and New York Paleontological Society. She has conducted numerous presentations at state and national conferences: SUNY Purchase Regional Partnership Math Science & Technology Conference, GSA National Conference, STANYS conferences, and National Science Teachers Association. Publications include Earth Science Investigations which is a book of 40 activities aligned with the NY state standards and several articles for the STANYS newsletter. She regularly conducts workshops and field trips for STANYS which have included the Marshlands Conservancy, Croton Gorge, and Catskills. She co-hosted an Eastern Section NAGT conference in 2009. The Eastern Section Award is not just about the most accolades or who looks better on paper, it is about teaching, collaboration, and leadership. While, Rose has an impressive vita, she has an overwhelming number of letters of support from varied institutions, including Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, STANYS, Earth2 Class, and numerous high school teachers from around the state. This is a testimony of not only her excellence as an earth science teacher but her leadership in earth science education. Her nominator, former NY state OEST winner Renee Aubrey, writes "All of these things she does, she does for the love of teaching and Earth Science. She does it all on her own time. She has never turned down any teacher who asked for help. Her enthusiasm for teaching in infectious and I am sure that through her, her students have gained a better appreciation for the world around them".

Far Western Section

No award in 2011

Midcontinent Section

No award in 2011

New England Section

Karen Saul is a 15-year veteran 8th grade earth science teacher at Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School, Johnston, RI. Karen's nominator states that, among other accomplishments, Saul is "a star teacher" who has "amazing insights into what will work in a classroom."

Karen's classroom is an active learning environment with a variety of students in an urban setting. Students work in small groups and analyze information. They present formal lab reports of their synthesized work but also are encouraged to be creative, using narrative, song, and drawing to demonstrate their learning. Fieldwork is scheduled as possible. At one nearby site, students observe glacial scratches and erratics plus analyze the underlying metaconglomerate bedrock and its ridgeline topography. They observe rock weathering in process by using "microdomes" over lichen, and collect sediment. Karen states, "How can one gain an appreciation for the natural world without direct, focused study and getting his/her hands dirty?" Karen also uses the Internet to bring the world to her students. She has designed a tectonics of the world excursion using Google Earth. The students make their way from their mid-plate location to various plate boundaries all over the world. As her nominator, Dr. Karen Kortz of the Community College of Rhode Island observes: Karen "does not shy away from using technology, but instead embraces it. She has become the go-to teacher when other teachers have questions regarding using technology in their classrooms." Karen Saul comments, "Students must be introduced to the wealth of available tools and benefits of technology while exploring science." Karen approaches her teaching with humor and she has a well-rounded and deep knowledge of geologic content. She is well organized, innovative, and keeps up with current events and trends in both science and education. She is currently a resource team member for the Rhode Island Technology Enhanced Science Program (RITES) where she co-authored and developed a technology-infused inquiry-based science investigation titled "Sleuthing Through The Rock Cycle." She has given a number of workshops and participates in an on-going education research project involving students' misconceptions.

North Central Section

No award in 2011

Pacific Northwest Section

Frank R. Hladky has taught Geology 201, 203, and 203 at Coquille High School for six years as a dual-enrollment course in cooperation with Southwestern Oregon Community College. Students benefit from exposure to college-level courses while still in high school. At the leading edge of the continent, the geology of the southern Oregon Coast provides access to the Coos Bay sedimentary basin with its energy minerals deposits, hillside mass wasting features, near shore processes, and evidence of recent magnitude 9 subduction zone earthquakes and related tsunamis. Mr. Hladky is a licensed Oregon "highly qualified teacher" in Integrated Science with additional endorsements in Business Education and Technology Education. He has taught courses in computer literacy, physics, chemistry, physical science, algebra 1 and 2, and calculus. His 22 years of professional experience includes stints at the U.S. Geological Survey, Idaho State University, Newmont Exploration Ltd., and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. He has more than 10,000 hours in the classroom and more than 1,000 field days conducting geologic studies. Mr. Hladky has more than 30 peer-reviewed geologic maps and publications, and he is an Oregon Registered Geologist.

Southeastern Section
Valerie Willis

Valerie Willis is an avid outdoorswoman who says, "If I am not exploring the land I am swimming in the sea! I love our planet Earth and feel very strongly about preserving all that is outdoors. Earth is grandiosely amazing and I am a firm advocate of environmental education."

Valerie has 9 years of teaching experience and currently teaches 8th grade Earth science at Camden Middle School in Camden, South Carolina. She has a B.S degree in Equestrian Science from Brenau University, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of South Carolina. She is working on her Master's plus thirty with 24 credits earned that are specifically related to Earth science. Valerie has taught Earth Science for the past eight years and is "highly qualified" and technology proficient. Her teaching philosophy is of a constructivist nature. She constantly searches for new ways to engage kids in the classroom. She incorporates multiple intelligence strategies in her teaching which include, hands-on labs, virtual labs, research-based projects, 3-D models, drawings, and computer based software to encourage creativity of student learning outcomes, and to vary her curriculum. Earth science needs relevancy to student everyday lives and current events are fostered in the classroom. Students leave her classroom with tools to guide their inquiring minds, an awareness of our precious resources and what needs to be done to protect them. For the past three years community involvement has included cell-phone collection drives by her Environmental Club. In 2009, Valerie received the "Golden Apple Award" for bringing hands-on gem mining to her school and was chosen to attend the Santee Cooper- Energy Educators Institute. In 2010, she was nominated by Linda Shaylor (Director of Gifted Education-(Ret.) and inducted into the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, and was chosen by Clemson University to attend the Discover Carolina/SC Life Summer Field Course. Dr. John R. Wagner-Emeritus Professor of Geology-Dept. of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at Clemson University nominated Valerie for the 2011 South Carolina/SE Regional OEST award.

Southwestern Section

Bonnie Dodge has a BS in Education from Eastern Connecticut State University and taught in Connecticut for nine years before becoming a partner in a family business. She later worked in the aerospace industry as a Process Engineer, Quality Manager, and finally Production Manager. When she moved to New Mexico seven years ago, Dodge returned to teaching, first in Socorro and then in Belen. She then earned her masters through the MST Program at New Mexico Tech as well as her Green Technologies Certificate. Dodge is highly qualified in math and science. She currently teaches ninth through twelfth grades at the alternative high school (Infinity High School) in Belen, NM. Dodge teaches Earth Science, Physical Science, Life Science, Applied Science, and math. She is especially proud of the Applied Science program that she initiated. The program promotes the resources of New Mexico: its geology, mining industry, water issues, native species of flora and fauna, culture, history, and related career opportunities. Through this program, students are able to explore their state and investigate the treasures it holds for them and their future.

Dodge was awarded Teacher of the Year for Infinity High School in 2008 and 2011. Additionally, she participated on the "Experimental Education in the Schools Panel" as a panelist at the 2010 Getting Kids Outside coalition meeting, and was recognized as the Outstanding Science Teacher of 2010 by the New Mexico Academy of Science. She regularly attends teacher workshops, summer camps, and conferences because they are invigorating excite her about sharing what she learns with her students. She believes students need to be involved in and responsible for their learning, their lives, and the society in which they live if they are to make a positive impact in this world. Students need to be problem-solvers (sometimes thinking outside the box), not memorizers. It is my goal as an educator to have students learn how to use the tools and resources available to enhance their thinking and expand their horizons.

Texas Section

Michael Brunt has taught for 11 years and the last six years as a science teacher at Eagle Pass Jr. High School in Eagle Pass, Texas. Mr. Brunt holds a B.A. from Western Illinois University and a M.Ed. from Sul Ross State University. For the past four years, Brunt has been a participant with the Texas Earth & Space Science Revolution Professional Development Program at The University of Texas in Austin.

In 2008, he was awarded an AS-1 seismograph through IRIS's Seismographs in Schools Program. Shortly after receiving the seismometer, he founded and began sponsoring the EPJH Seismology Team which consists of selected 7th and 8th grade students who meet after school to learn about earthquakes, seismic waves, analyze recorded seismic data, and correspond with other students from schools around the country. Last school year, he and his seismology team participated in an earthquake research study led by Dr. Cliff Frohlich at UT-Austin. A research paper detailing our findings has been submitted for publication in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. My school seismology program has gained state recognition and is being implemented at a Dallas STEM academy and being considered as the model for a state seismic network program.

Mr. Brunt was selected by AGU to attend the European Geosciences Union General Assembly GIFT workshop in Vienna, Austria and he has presented at the Science Teachers' Association of Texas Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching.

When reflecting on teaching approaches, Brunt feels that there are many factors that figure into the equation. Teachers must be willing to experiment with new strategies and admit to weaknesses, collaborate with colleagues, interact with students, and listen to their needs. They must realize that learning to teach is a lifelong process. Teachers must learn by example, learn by doing, learn through discovery, and learn by creating.



Kathleen Galau has been a teacher for fifteen years, both at the middle and high school levels. She won the Alaska State Integration of Technology in the Classroom award in 2010. Galau received a MS in Biology from the University of Nevada. She was trained in GIS at the University of Alaska, Southeast. Her teaching philosophy is of the mind that the integration of technology is key to stimulating student interest in this digital world. She also believes that community partnerships and culture of craftsmanship set the highest expectations for our students.


Ann S. Lenderman is currently a middle school earth science teacher at Rising Starr Middle School in Fayette County, Georgia. She has taught middle school science for 14 years and has thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Ann earned her B.S. in Middle Grades Education with a concentration in Science from Mercer University, Macon, GA and her Master's degrees in both Middle Grades Education and Leadership from the University of West Georgia. Her Ed. S. in Middle Grades Education was also received from the University of West Georgia. Ann has served on the Board of the Georgia Science Teacher Association from 2005 through 2011. During this time, Ann served as Director, President, President-elect, Secretary, and District Director. She has also served on the Georgia Science Advisory Committee for the State Board of Education for several years during which she helped to write the Frameworks for the Earth Science Georgia Performance Standards. Ann became a Georgia Master Teacher in 2006 and received the Coweta-Fayette EMC Bright Ideas Award that same year. She has presented numerous times at the Georgia Science Teacher Association annual conference and has written several articles for their newsletter.

According to Ann, "All students are capable and want to learn and it is the responsibility of the teacher to encourage learning by providing a variety of opportunities for their students to experience science." In her classroom, students are able to weave their previous knowledge with real-world situations into a cohesive web of information that helps them understand the world around them through hands-on, minds-on experiences.


Barry Guillot is a National Board Certified 8th grade science teacher at Harry M. Hurst Middle School, in Destrehan, Louisiana, and is also the creator and coordinator of the nationally recognized Wetland Watchers service-learning project. Nearly 16,000 students have volunteered over 100,000 hours as part of this project. Guillot's strengths include the ability to attract partnerships, create funding, and involve faculties and students from other schools in service-learning projects. Guillot is featured in recent Chronicle Books release Heroes of the Environment by Harriet Rohmer. Guillot's project has been highlighted as a national model for service-learning through the NYLC GSN Lift initiative and the YSA website. The project has also been featured on specials hosted by Diane Sawyer on ABC and Jane Fonda on CNN and TBS, as well as video documentaries created by the George Lucas Education Foundation and the EPA. The Wetland Watcher Project was the recipient of the AASA's National Civic Star Award based on excellence in community partnerships and received special recognition from many organizations including Teen Ink Magazine, the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program, and the National Football League. Guillot's project has also been spotlighted in the Scholastic Books Administrator magazine as one of the top "5 Ways to Breathe New Life into Old Subjects" and in the American Association of School Administrator's magazine in the article "A Powerful Partnership Impacts a Community."


Jeana Essery attended Villa Jule College earning an AA in Liberal Arts, followed by Towson University where she earned a BS in Education, and Johns Hopkins University where she received her MS in Special Education. She currently teaches at Fallston Middle School and 21 years of teaching experience. In 2007 she was a Harford County Teacher of the Year finalist. She is active with the PTA, a coach of Destination Imagination, she serves as a Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports Committee and is a Co-Leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Her engagement goes beyond science education. She coordinates fundraising events and awareness support for a Cambodian safe-house that provides rehabilitation and care for girls rescued from human trafficking. Her nominator writes "she has a natural questioning ability that slowly and methodically leads students to develop questions about the world around them that they seek to answer."

New Jersey

Billy Goodman holds an AB in Biology from Princeton University and an MS in Ecology from the University of Minnesota. With 8 years of teaching experience he currently teaches at Passaic Valley High School. He was awarded the Toshiba America Foundation grant and selected to be a leader in the Lifelines for High School Climate Change Education Program sponsored by NASA and the Lawrence Hall of Science. He initiated AP Environmental Science at his school, as advisor to the Environmental Club he took his team to the NJ Envirothon. He has been a driving force for adopting and using GIS and online mapping tools at his school. He conducts workshops on Google Earth and ArcMap for Montclair State. Most recently he organized a learning community of 10 teachers who meet monthly to discuss climate change.

New York

Susan Sharp has a Masters in Geoscience Education at Mississippi State University. She has 12 years of teaching experience and currently teaches 9th grade at J.C. Birdlebough High School. She was formally a GLOBE trainer, writer for the NY State Regents Earth Science Core Curriculum, and Director at large for Earth Science for Teachers Association of New York. She was awarded Outstanding Teacher for the TACNY Technology Award, Fulbright Memorial Teacher Award to Japan, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation Teacher Award to Costa Rica, Central STANYS Service Award, and the Scientific American Educator of the Year Award. She regularly organized field trips for her students. A student writes, "the field trips we went on and the knowledge she taught us really influenced me. I miss it so much and feel it really shaped me and encouraged my dreams."

North Carolina

Whether he's using current data for weather forecasting, seismograms for mapping plate tectonics, or making real-time observations with an Internet accessible radio telescope, Tim Martin has a passion for bringing real time science into his Earth science classroom. As a PolarTREC teacher in 2009, he accompanied an international research expedition to Lake El'gygytgyn in the Siberian Arctic. There he served as a member of the science team and as a teacher ambassador bringing the planetary science and climatology to students worldwide. In 2010 he participated with a team from his school that flew an experiment onboard NASA's "Weightless Wonder" reduced gravity aircraft.


Virginia "Gini" Greenlaw holds a BS in Geology and Master of Arts in Teaching degrees from James Madison University. She currently teaches at Harrisonburg High School where she has taught for 4 years. She serves as cooperating teacher for JMUs teacher education program, as well as, a practicum mentor teacher. She serves the Valley Ridge Regional Governor's School week-long residential program and intensive field studies for upper high school students. She provides a summer enrichment day program for middle school students on the geology of the Shenandoah. In addition she finds time to coach the Taekwondo Club. Her nominator, VA state councilor Dr. Eric Pyle, writes Gini is quiet and unassuming, but beneath that surface lies the deep focus and concern for learning, both hers and her students. She sets high expectations for herself, and these are conveyed to her students to whom she will settle for nothing less that her best."


Dorinda Hearn (Belcher)

West Virginia

Michelle Turner has been teaching for 20 years and currently teaches advance Earth Science for Oak Glen High School. She has a BS from Eastern Michigan University in Education- Chemistry and General Science. She is currently a candidate for National Board Certification, and was nominated as schoolteacher of the year. Just last week she was named one of three state finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching for the state of West Virginia. She initiated Science Night at her high school and provided training for special needs students to compete at Space Camp. Her nominator, former OEST winner Stefan Smolski, writes "she make the study of geosciences as relevant to her students lives as possible by including local issues. Michelle's courses were frequently mentioned by the students as being among those they found most interesting, challenging, and would gladly take again."