2017 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award Winners
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.
Jill Weaver has been teaching science at Valley View Junior High since 2009. She earned her bachelor's degree from Antioch McGregor in elementary education and her master's degree from Wright State University. Her philosophy of teaching reflects her responsibility to meet students where they are in their educational journey and take them as far as she can while in her classroom. She strongly believes in experiential learning and giving students experiences to tie to their instruction. She wants to expose her students to as many career opportunities as possible in as many fields as possible that apply to their instruction. Her students have spoken to and questioned hydrologists, paleomagnetists, chemists, sedimentologists, seismic engineers, volcanologists, cartographers and scientific illustrators, to name a few. She feels that if her students don't have exposure to career choices they will never be able to train for them.
The techniques that Jill employs during instruction involve giving students opportunities beyond textbook instruction. One of her content standards is topography. Last year she had her students research ways to enhance their studies of topography and topographic maps. One of her students showed her an augmented reality sand table. With Jill's guidance and support, her students put together a grant proposal for the materials to build an AR sand table. After the grant was awarded, they built it. Jill thinks that having this tool in the classroom has advanced student knowledge and given students an amazing experience to pin their knowledge to. Students in her class are able to study not only topographic maps but study landforms and hydrology. They have used this tool to create detailed local topographic maps and study their local water table, as well as hold a Socratic seminar to discuss the effects hydraulic fracturing might have on their landscape.
Jill feels that her innate creativity and love to design and build has enhanced learning experiences for her students. She engineered and built a shake table to test student-created earthquake proof structures that allowed students to see how design applications for stronger buildings and incorporating base isolation systems changed the testing results for survival following seismic activity. Students built a wave machine to look at and experience wave movement out of wooden skewers, gummy bears and duct tape. This year, at Christmas, her students made plate tectonic ornaments that they took home to share with their families. She created box models that hold plaster molds of ocean floor topography, allowing students to create bathymetric maps. Her students have Google Cardboard headsets to view virtual reality tours of glaciers from her travels to Mt. Rainier and other Cascade Range Volcanoes, the Grand Canyon, and Cape Town, South Africa's Table Mountain. She created these virtual experiences with a 360 camera that allowed her students to look at these images in 360 degrees.
Jill is involved in many extracurricular and volunteer activities in her community. She is the drama coach, the robotics and technology coach, she started a community family STEM night, and developed and started a UAV flight training program. She trains a high school green team that mentors inner city students. She is on her building leadership team, and is a four year Lead STEM fellow with the Dayton Regional STEM center where she writes and vets new STEM curriculum to share with the larger STEM community.
Alabama - Virginia Hall
Mrs. Virginia Hall received a B.S. in Chemistry from Lincoln Memorial University and is currently teaching Earth Space Science at Mary G. Montgomery High School and Physical Science online through the ACCESS program. Virginia has been in public education for over twenty years. During this time, she has been awarded the 2010-2011 American Chemical Society (ACS): Mobile Section Chemistry Teacher of the Year, the 1997-1998 DCCTM Mathematics Teacher of the Year for Private Schools and the 1997-1998 Allison Academy Mathematics Teacher of the Year. She is a strong advocate for hands-on, inquiry-based learning. She involves her students in critical thinking and problem solving through projects, questioning, and hands-on activities. Moreover, she readily uses sources such as NASA and NOAA and incorporates that information into her lessons while encouraging students to engage in argument based on evidence, as well as construct explanations and design solutions. Her professional interests focus on incorporating technology into the classroom, growing within her field and sharing the skills she has learned with other professionals. Her current projects include developing rich lessons for her classroom, the district and ALEX. In addition, she serves as a BYOD teacher/trainer and NASA teacher leader for the Mobile County Public School System.
Arizona - Allison McIntosh
Allison McIntosh has been teaching science at Rhodes Junior High School in Mesa, Arizona for nine years. She graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor's degree in geography, a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, and a second master's degree in gifted education. Early in her career, she became a teacher consultant for the Arizona Geographic Alliance. In addition to testing products to determine their classroom value, she writes curriculum bridging STEM content and geography. These lessons engage students with real-world problems and challenge students to discover science principles through exploration. Furthermore, these lessons allow her to cultivate the understanding that young scientists must think globally and act locally if they want to enact change. One lesson in particular, an investigation of the world food crisis, named her the co-recipient of the 2013 "Great Moments in Social Studies Teaching Award" and the 2014 "Herff Jones Nystrom/NCGE Award." When she's not teaching, Allison is hiking her way through all 59 National Parks; so far she has left no trace in nine parks and plans to add one more this summer.
Colorado - Annette Calabretta
Colorado is the perfect place to teach Earth science! The geology is right outside the door! Annette has been teaching for 21 years after earning her bachelor's degree in Natural Science from the University of Puget Sound and her master's in education from Regent University. Annette has taught at The Classical Academy (TCA) since 2003 and teaches Earth science, AP environmental science, and astronomy. Some of the previous awards Annette has received include Honorable Mention Earth Science Teacher (2009), American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Earth Science Teacher of Excellence (2008) - Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists, and TCA Junior High Teacher of the Year (2006).
Inquiry-based teaching makes the topics relevant to the students' lives and interests. Leading students on field trips to explore the local geology is an added bonus. Each class has field trips to locations such as a gold mine, a local creek for water quality testing, and an astronomy observation night. This, combined with her enthusiasm for the incredible geology that surrounds us, can and does instill the same passion and curiosity in the minds of students.
Annette has high expectations of students and helps them to attain them. An example is the Local Geology Field Trip project, where students pick a location, visit the geologic site, take photographs, identify the rock types in the location, and put together a PowerPoint to present to class. This is a culminating project, broken into small pieces. Annette and their peers make suggestions for improvement, so that the final presentation is of exceptional quality.
Delaware - Lindsay Lancaster
Lindsay Lancaster's personal mission is to inspire students to be global citizens who appreciate a diversity of ecosystems and are dedicated to improving the Earth through environmental stewardship. She is currently the Program Manager at Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids, working with multiple schools and grade levels to bring science based seed-to-table vegetable gardening programs to Delaware schools. Lindsay is especially passionate about connecting students in urban areas who have limited access to green spaces with plants, nature, and healthy food. Whether it's soil studies, composting, or plant lifecycles, her K-8 science lessons incorporate outdoor education and encourage students to make new discoveries through experiential learning and active participation. Lindsay views real-world environmental problems as a catalyst for student-driven learning. For example, a leak at a water spigot turned into a project on water conservation and the discovery of voles in a garden resulted in a habitat modification project. Lindsay serves on the Board of Directors for the Delaware Association for Environmental Education and is a member of the Delaware Children in Nature Coalition and the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition.
Florida - Leigh Arnold
Leigh Arnold has been teaching for a total of seven years at all Title 1 Elementary schools. After completing her bachelors at the University of North Florida, she then started her teaching career at St. Lucie Public schools, and now is teaching in Palm Beach County. During her time teaching third grade, she has also completed her master's in educational leadership.
Mrs. Arnold is currently teaching Science to students in second through fifth grade at her school. Leigh uses their age appropriate standards to create innovative hands-on lessons for them to complete during Science Lab. All lessons are inquiry-based and reinforce what their teachers are teaching them inside the classroom. The students enjoy coming to her class, as they know that it will be engaging, they will be able to collaborate, and they understand that there is no wrong answer. After being thrown into this position, Leigh feels that science has become a passion of hers. Students throughout campus might not know her name, but they know of her fun class and will scream out "Hello Science Teacher." Being at a school with over seventy percent population of ELLs, Science Lab is a place where all levels of learners can enjoy and improve their oral language skills.
Georgia - Catherine Warren
Even with thirty years of teaching experience, Catherine Warren still considers herself a lifelong learner. As a sixth grade Earth science teacher at Richmond Hill Middle School in Richmond Hill, she employs a divergent approach to education that is flexible and promotes student-centered instruction that is applicable and authentic for all students. Students are engaged in NOAA/NASA data collection, model creations, challenging labs, soil analysis, and problem-solving tasks from their on-site weather station. Capitalizing on students' inquisitiveness and experiences while collaborating with colleagues to expand science to other classes and outdoors cultivates learning in her classroom.
Living in coastal Georgia provides unique learning experiences for her students. With support from the DNR, students participate in coastline restoration efforts through Seeds to Shoreline, Adopt-A-Stream water quality monitoring on the Ogeechee River, and when opportunities develop, pond shocking with the Fish and Wildlife Department at Fort Stewart and fish spawning at the Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery. She believes that students develop lifelong environmental stewardship through active engagement in real-world science.
She earned education degrees from the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina with recently adding gifted endorsement. She has served in various leadership roles and has been recognized as Teacher of the Year at JL Newbern Middle School, Richmond Hill Middle School, and Bryan County Schools.
Idaho - Heather Swanson
Heather Swanson is in her 17th year of teaching. She began teaching in the Lakeland Joint School District in North Idaho. Starting as a kindergarten teacher, Heather has since taught every grade through 8th grade. She is not a teacher that makes files for the next year, as she likes to change things up depending on the students present at any given time. Heather truly enjoys teaching science and loves to challenge students with individual projects and group work that stretches their creativity and thought processes.
Kentucky - Thomas Reed
Lexington, KY may be the horse capital of the world, but Thomas Reed's students live in an urban environment, so they seldom interact with nature. They enter his classroom without an understanding of the environmental problems the world faces today. Thomas loves the opportunity to bring to light a new world for his students.
Each of his students strives for excellence. All students are capable of learning, and Thomas sees his role to be that of a facilitator for the learning process and to enable each student to reach his or her highest potential. While his lessons are challenging, Thomas creates an environment based upon the concept of a growth mindset. If a student doesn't know the right answer this time, it's okay; he or she will learn from this moment and understand the concept when approached with the same question again. Thomas' classroom is a community which fosters opportunities for learning, both socially and academically, enabling students to not only enjoy classroom activities, but to develop a life-long love of the learning process.
Thomas has been in teaching/administration for 17 years with degrees/certifications from University of Kentucky and Georgetown College and was recently featured in KY Teacher Magazine.
Louisiana - Ann Robichaux
Mrs. Robichaux earned her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Nicholls State University. She taught math and science classes for thirteen years at the elementary level before moving on to Vandebilt Catholic High School where she has taught Earth science for four years. As an innovative classroom teacher and a lifelong learner, she has participated in numerous continuing education activities sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, 4-H, JASON, NASA, NOAA, Audubon Institute, Nicholls State University (SMART and MSP), Pittcon, SDE, BTNEP, and FDA. She has also attended LSTA, NSTA, and NSELA conferences. She uses the content knowledge and strategies delivered to enrich her lessons for her students and support inquiry-based learning in her classroom. Mrs. Robichaux has been an Earth science workshop presenter at LSTA conferences.
Mrs. Robichaux has been recognized for her excellence in teaching as a 2016 recipient of the American Petroleum Institute's Delta Chapter's Distinguished Teacher Award and is a 2017 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. In addition to her teaching responsiblities at Vandebilt Catholic High School, she is the moderator of the Be the Change Team and the AquaBots, the school's underwater robotics club. She supports science education in her region as a member of the Teacher's Advisory Council for the Audubon Institute.
Michigan - Sherry Claflin
Graduating from Central Michigan University with degrees in Earth Science and Journalism, Sherry Claflin found Earth science to be her passion! Last year, Sherry received the Michigan Earth Science Teacher Association's 2016 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher award. She also won the Keep America Beautiful Recycling Contest in 2013. As science instructor for Annis Water Resources Institute of Grand Valley State University, and adjunct professor teaching Geology 101 for Muskegon Community College, Sherry totally immerses K-16 students in a variety of activities to enhance their science education. Sherry is also the Education Coordinator for the Kropscott Farm Environmental Center and S. F. Wessling Observatory in Fremont. She knew her students were hooked on astronomy when they begged her to open the Observatory every clear evening that semester. They logged 17 visits on school nights!
Receiving the Legacy award from Hesperia graduating seniors in 2015 as their most inspirational middle school teacher was incredibly special to Sherry. The class of 2010 bought her a star to honor her commitment and dedication. She has left her students with a lasting impression of their caring Earth science teacher, with an unending enthusiasm for teaching and an incredible passion for the stewardship of Earth!
Minnesota - Denine Voegeli
Denine Voegeli is an Earth science teacher in the small, rural school district of Plainview-Elgin-Millville. She is in her 17th year in this district and currently teaches 7th and 8th grade at the Jr. High School in Elgin. Denine's teaching philosophy is that all students can learn Earth science, believing it is the one subject that is completely relevant to each and every one of her students. She approaches teaching of Earth science topics conceptually so that each unit fits within the framework of the topic that came before it. She starts with Earth's geosphere then moves on to Earth's hydrosphere until she finishes the year with Earth's place in space. Students come to realize that science is not at all scary and that they use the same method of solving problems every day. Science becomes not only relevant, but inviting and fun! Denine's main goal is to have students leave her at the end of their 8th grade year with a strong sense of stewardship that models the ideals of Dr. Seuss's beloved character, the Lorax.
Denine's professional activities include two board of director positions at the state level: Minnesota Earth Science Teachers Association (MESTA) and Minnesota Science Teachers Association (MnSTA). She has served on MESTA's board for over 10 years and has served as a regional director on MnSTA's board for two years. Her most influential activity was attending a field program called TIMES (Teaching Inquiry-based Minnesota Earth Science) which changed the course of her teaching career!
Mississippi - Tammie Bright
Tammie Stricklin Bright has been a middle and high school science teacher for 28 years in Mississippi's public school system. She is currently teaching in Grenada County School District. Tammie has received numerous service awards and was selected as Yazoo County Middle School's 2010 Teacher of the Year, and was also named Star Teacher at Byram High School. In addition to her teaching, Tammie has served as the sponsor for a variety of clubs and has coached cheerleading, softball, and archery. She has fulfilled leadership positions serving as a mentor, science department chairperson, science fair coordinator, and presenting professional development at the local and state levels. Recently, she served as a member of the Final Review Committee in the writing of the new Mississippi Science Curriculum for College- and Career Readiness. Tammie's passion for teaching and the fact that she is a lifelong learner have led her to continuously find ways to prepare her students for the future. Through participating in various conferences, workshops, and teacher academies she has provided hands-on learning opportunities and incorporated technology into her instruction. Tammie utilizes a variety of methods and tools in the classroom: small and larger group discussions, role playing and debates, project teams and projects relevant to the real world, as well as traditional classroom components. Having students participate in science fairs and competitions is one way that Tammie promotes student interest and outreach to colleges and universities.
Tammie is currently working on her Doctor of Education (Ed.S/Ed.D) Educational Leadership Degree with licensure at Belhaven University. She has a Master's of Education Degree with specialization in Curriculum and Instruction from Belhaven University. She received her bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences and teacher certification at Delta State University.
New Mexico - Turtle Haste
Turtle Haste has been teaching in both informal and formal settings for 25 years. After earning a Masters in Science Education from Oregon State University, she has continued her own learning by earning a National Board Teaching license in Early Adolescent Science and a NASA Endeavor STEM Certificate from Columbia University's Teacher College. In 2007, she was a NOAA Teacher at Sea and in 2015, she was recognized by Teacher at Sea for her continued work with her research cruise experience with an "Excellence in Science Education" award. In 2015, she was also selected as a U.S. Department of State Office of Cultural Affairs and Education Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow, and she was also honored as one of the New Mexico Women of STEM for her contributions in motivating young women to pursue education and careers in STEM fields. Mrs. Haste is known for her connections with researchers around the world, showing her students how the topics they investigate are being explored by scientists. She uses her infectious curiosity and awe of the physical world around her to instill excitement in and motivate her students.
New York - Rebecca Remis
Rebecca Remis has been teaching Earth science at Schalmont High School in Schenectady for the past 23 years. She is the Science Department Coordinator for Schalmont HS, and has advised the New York State Science Honor Society, Riverwatch Club, and Science Olympiad. Becky is also an adjunct associate professor at Clarkson University's Capital Region Campus in the MAT program, and has helped teach courses in the History and Philosophy of Science, Astronomy, Geoscience, and STEM Methods for preservice science teachers and graduate teaching assistants. Right now Becky is the Director at Large for Earth Science for the Science Teacher Association of New York State (STANYS) and membership chair of the Eastern Section of STANYS. She is a STANYS Fellow, a National Board Certified Teacher, and the secretary for the NY Earth Science Teachers' Association. Becky graduated from Cornell University with a BS in Biology and from Union College with an MAT in Science Education. Her approach to teaching is inclusive of all students at all levels and focuses on students ownership of learning through a constructivist approach. Becky incorporates hands-on field experiences with local geologists and real-world applications in her teaching with the goal of helping her students become scientifically literate citizens.
Ohio - Karly Lyons
While in undergraduate school at Washington & Jefferson College PA, Karly Lyons double majored in psychology and sociology. After doing social work for a short time, Karly decided to go back to school to become a special education teacher and earned her Master's in Teaching degree in 2007 from Muskingum University. Teaching middle school science for 13 years now, Karly has discovered her strength and passion for Earth science education. Because of this, she is now pursuing another master's degree in Geosciences from Mississippi State University. A future goal of hers is to teach Earth science at the college level.
Karly Lyons' core teaching philosophy is to make genuine connections with kids and show them that learning can be fun. Developing rapport with her students allows Karly to design lessons that will ignite each student's potential.
Karly has been an Intervention Specialist for 13 years. She teaches 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students with disabilities science in a small resource classroom in Byesville, Ohio at Meadowbrook Middle School. She employs a hands-on, fully interactive, technology inspired, multi-sensory approach to teaching. Some multi-sensory lessons that Karly has done include edible DNA, cells, and soil horizons. She has compared the Earth to a hard boiled egg, made "Starburst rocks" go through the rock cycle, made chocolate bars move like tectonic plates, and has made sugar karst environments. Her 7th graders painted canvas "biome shoes" this fall to represent their favorite biome and its corresponding flora and fauna.
Her students also learn kinesthetic hand motions, chants, and songs to remember difficult science vocabulary. Another inventive and effective learning strategy Karly utilizes are her "science trading cards". Students are given ten basic science facts or vocabulary words bi-weekly, to help build a better science knowledge foundation. Students use these new vocabulary words to create a colorful representation of those words on an index card. The trading cards are treasured by students and are collected and traded throughout their three years in middle school.
In 2016, Karly earned the Outstanding Educator Award for Region 12 given by the State Support Team. And lastly, in May of 2016, she was invited to The White House to be honored with other great educators from all around the country for National Teacher Appreciation Week. She attended the event with the State Teachers of the Year and the National Teacher of the Year.
Karly is an active member of The Planetary Society, NAGT, The National Audubon Society, and The Sierra Club.
Oregon - Celia Hampton
Celia Hampton has an Elementary Degree and Integrated Science Endorsement from Eastern Oregon University. She received her Masters of Arts in teaching from Grand Canyon University, in Phoenix, Arizona. Last year, she won the Outstanding Classroom Teaching Award given by the Oregon Science Teachers Association, for Eastern Oregon. Celia has been teaching for 27 years in Pendleton. She has taught 5th - 8th grades.
When the rovers landed on Mars, Celia's class worked with OMSI, on the Mars Exploration Project. The class worked with Intel, via satellite, to introduce Celia's students to engineering and design. They applied their knowledge and used STEM principles to design and build a colony, and presented their ideas on survival, for colonization, on Mars. The students' names are written on the Cassini Probe, that is traveling through space, right now.Celia's classroom is full of rocks, minerals, crystals, and fossils! She teaches the Geology of the Pacific Northwest, the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the theory of plate tectonics, the Cascade Range volcanoes, and so much more.
All day, every day, students ask questions to explore the world around them and through hands-on science experiments and STEM activities, Celia hopes to continue to foster their love of science!