2019 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.

SECTION WINNERS

Central Section - Dr. Michael J. Smith

Michael Smith is in his 30th year as an earth science educator and teaches geology, paleobiology, oceanography, and biology at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio. He has a BA in Geology from the College of Wooster, MA in Geology from Rice University, and a doctorate in Science Education from the University of Pittsburgh. As AGI's Director of Education and Outreach from 1998 to 2004, he directed ten NSF-funded projects and co-edited the EarthComm and Investigating Earth Systems textbook programs. Dr. Smith served NESTA as its Secretary, Journal Editor, and Eastern Region Director and the NAGT as Eastern Section President. He received the Maurice Ewing Fellowship in Geology at Rice, Outstanding Educator Award from Kappa Delta Pi, NESTA's Distinguished Service Award, and NAGT OEST Awards for Pennsylvania (1991) and Delaware (2007). Dr. Smith believes that all students can discover a love of Earth science and that the best way to motivate young learners is to take them into the field, keep inquiry front and center, and challenge them to know a topic or place deeply. His students spend most of their time in the lab, interpreting data, and doing research. Each student produces a geologic field guide to a national park and takes and analyzes photographs from the International Space Station. He does outdoor geology projects using the school's 220-acre campus and loves taking students on field trips to study downtown Cleveland's building stones and construct stratigraphic sections in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. His paleobiology students develop deep knowledge of several classes of organisms from the fossil record and create museum exhibits of fossils they collect on field trips. This year, he took his first cohort of students on a seven-day field trip to study the geology of Michigan's Upper Peninsula within an intensive three-week summer geology course for credit. Dr. Smith's colleagues describe him as a dedicated, passionate and generous, and his students consider him to be an enthusiastic teacher, mentor, supportive role model, and someone who leaves no student behind in the classes he teaches. A former student wrote that "Dr. Smith's principal strengths are his ability to deeply listen to his students (enabling him to challenge them to reach their potential), capture their imaginations through innovative science projects that move beyond the classroom walls, and his contagious passion for Earth sciences." He leads a school stewardship program that engages students in service projects from campus recycling and composting to building trails and planting trees in parks. He is an avid baker and gardener. In addition to devising ways to keep deer out of his flower beds, volunteers regularly at a support center for grieving families and plays the trombone with his high school's jazz band, Hillcrest Concert Band, and Czech Sokol Band of Cleveland.br clear]


Eastern Section - Christopher Bowring

I have been employed by Rockbridge County Schools for 32 years. I have been awarded the "Wildcat Inspirational Award" two times. I earned a B.S. in Geology from Washington & Lee University in 1987. My approach to teaching has always been to excite and challenge all students. I have introduced many project assignments that I have designed and created for the students. I give the students an opportunity to be creative. One particular assignment that has been successful is the "Creek Project". Students locate a creek in Rockbridge County near their home. Each week, the students use simple tools to measure the volume of the water in the creek. They also collect and photograph the aquatic larva in the creek; in addition, they collect and identify the sediment pebbles and the bedrock beneath the creek; graphs of the "change over time" of the volumes are also produced. This is a fun and rewarding project. During the winter months, the students build a cardboard model of the Grand Canyon. The different layers of the actual canyon are represented in cardboard. We construct this model in class and the students learn the names of the rock layers as they build the "canyon". I have coached girls' cross-country for twenty years; boys' and girls' lacrosse for several years, and wrestling for over fifteen years. Coaching has been an integral part of teaching. I have enjoyed mentoring the students in a sport. I participated in cross-country and wrestling in high school and feel a strong connection to the athletes who strive to excel in these sports. During the summer months, I organize two week long camping trips for students in my classes. I have been guiding these trips for as long as I have been teaching. I take the groups of students (usually about ten boys and girls per trip) to the southwestern part of the United States. We camp out in the National Parks and visit the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Yosemite N.P., Death Valley, Mt. Whitney, Disneyland, and Joshua Tree. The trips last for two weeks and have always been a highlight for the students. We usually take a white water raft trip down the Merced River or the South Fork of the American River as well. I will retire this year but will miss the experience of teaching very much.


Far Western Section - Sergio de Alba

Sergio de Alba is a teacher at R. M. Miano Elementary. His sixth-grade classroom is not a room with four walls. It is indeed the entire campus. Over the past 18 years he has built 13 outdoor science lab gardens, a petrology zone, and has brought to his campus a series of S.T.E.A.M. based programs geared towards understanding how the local Ag industry and mandated curriculum go hand in hand. Mr. de Alba has brought a collection of specimens from nature to be used as instructional tools because he believes that experiencing the real thing allows for an enthusiasm that cannot be replicated. His goal is to continue to grow and improve to best serve his students.

Mr. de Alba holds BCLAD certification, a BA in Liberal Studies and a Master's in Education. Mr. de Alba has earned the following recognitions. Henry Ford Innovator Teacher Award, Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching, Paul DeHart Hurd Award for Exemplary Middle Level Science Teaching and Leadership, EPA Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators Honorable Mention, Merced County Teacher of the Year, Los BaƱos Unified Teacher of the Year, Barnes & Noble Favorite Teacher of the Year, NSTA Sylvia Shugrue Award for Elementary School Teachers, Dr. Les McCabe Educator of the Year Award, AITC Excellence in Teaching - National Teacher of the Year, CFAITC Literacy for Life Outstanding Teacher of the Year, Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence, Entomological Society of America Foundation President's Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Primary Education.

Mr. de Alba served on the Science ICT Standing Committee Member for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in Washington D.C., he is a National Geographic Certified Teacher, and is a board member of the NMLSTA.


New England Section - Susan Meabh Kelly

After completing undergraduate program (Columbia University) and master's in education (CUNY, Queens College), Susan Meabh Kelly secured qualifications to teach secondary level physics and Earth science. Although she spent much of her nearly two decades-long science education career in New York, Susan currently teaches in one of the seventeen Connecticut State Department of Education's technical high schools. As an Earth science and physics teacher, Susan participated in many federally funded professional development efforts that leverage archived and real-time remotely sensed environmental data (NASA-funded Eyes in the Sky 2, NOAA-funded Earthworks, and American Meteorological Society blended learning graduate courses), as well as astronomical data (NASA Spitzer Space Telescope Program and NOAO's Research Based Science Education). Susan is eager to identify opportunities for students to explore, analyze, and communicate about scientific data that pivot around locally relevant investigations. For example, students explored GIS map layers in order to identify potential patterns associated with radioactive well water in Connecticut. In this way, she feels students can best develop and experience practices that are authentically aligned with those of the professional scientific community. Susan continues to participate in scientific research as part of federally funded teacher-scientist partnership programs. Most recently, she spent two summers at NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory developing a sequence of activities to prepare secondary students to engage in climate modeling research. With these experiences and resources at hand, Susan has orchestrated opportunities for students to participate in fee-free afterschool authentic science research. Products of her afterschool program include student publication at professional scientific venues, such as annual American Geophysical Union meetings. In 2018 the Connecticut Technology Council recognized Susan's innovative efforts to connect secondary students and teachers to the STEM community by selecting her to be awarded as one of the state's "Women of Innovation".


Pacific Northwest Section - Renee Drummond

Working in a region of the world as unique as Alaska creates wonderful opportunities for a teacher to explore Earth Science ideas in the classroom using place-based curriculum. Following a constructivist approach, taking students outside, allowing them to actually see and experience the content in a real way makes learning exciting and connected to their everyday lives. The desire to help students connect to the content in this way has driven my work creating curriculum for the nine years I have been teaching. The University of Alaska, Southeast is also full of staff members who are actively doing research on Earth Science topics and who give generously of their time, visiting classroom and inspiring the next generation of scientists. Juneau is also experiencing a push to recognize the wealth of knowledge embedded in the Tlingit cultural creation stories and practices, which allow students to connect to their world and each other in ways that can not be taught through standard Western Science practices alone. I am honored to be a part of teaching in this community, where science is seen not only as a way to look out at the world, but to allow students to connect to it and recognize their personal impact.



Southeastern Section - Andrea Starks

Andrea Starks just completed her 11th year of teaching. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee Martin with a major in secondary English education. After several years of teaching middle grades ELA, she was assigned a 6th grade science course that she "was dreading, but ultimately so thankful for because it changed my life." Since then, her desire for learning all things science has been insatiable.

Valuing professional growth opportunities, Andrea seeks to learn from fellow educators and experts whenever possible. She was recently chosen to participate in the highly-selective FDA's Science and Our Food program in Washington, D.C. Andrea has also served as a presenter at several prestigious state and national conferences including the TSTA Annual Conference and twice at the NSTA National Conference.

Andrea's teaching philosophy centers around the idea that science truly is an experience, and all students should have the full experience. She strives to make her class interactive and meaningful for all demographics of students. She meets them at their individual learning level, then challenges them. Having felt lost as a student in science class, Andrea actively works to show all students, especially females, that they can be successful in and enjoy science. Incorporating technology and hands-on activities are essential elements routinely used in her classroom to help students grow academically, emotionally, and socially. The ultimate goal is to help them be the best versions of themselves and well-rounded citizens of the world.

Andrea currently teaches 8th grade General Science and a food science themed enrichment course at Houston Middle School in Germantown, TN. She is active in her school community and serves as the sponsor for the boys basketball team. Many students fondly refer to her as "Mama Starks." Witnessing the success of her students confirms for Ms. Starks that she has found her calling.


Southwest Section - Hank Shoop

This is my 34th year of teaching in the Deer Valley Unified School District. I've been teaching general science for 32 years. I've taught Middle school science for 20 years and gifted and advanced science for the past 6 of those years. I've been nominated for teacher of the year several times by administration and other colleagues. I've won Fulton Home's Silver Apple award by student nomination and have received the district's Pride award. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Education from Martin Luther College and a Master of Arts in Science Teaching from Northern Arizona University. I continue my learning through the year through NSTA publications, science camps, attending district courses and created a science course for PD for gifted teachers. My Teaching Philosophy is summed up in a quote from the National Research Council's National Standards, "Different students will achieve understanding in different ways, and different students will achieve different degrees of depth and breadth of understanding depending on interest, ability and context. But all students can develop the knowledge and skills described in the Standards, even as some go well beyond these levels. (NRC,1996 p.2). I am fully vested in inquiry as a way of learning, knowing, and understanding. It is a way of teaching. I believe that the higher the inquiry level, the more confident students become in their own ability to recognize that a problem exists and can be solved using any or all of the scientific processes. Creating open ended challenges, asking guiding questions, never giving them "the" answer, informs me and the student of their learning and understanding in "real time". Trusting them to be responsible for their learning and gaining new understanding, is the best way to build their self-confidence whether it be in geology, astronomy, chemistry, physics or ecology.


Texas - Isabel Anaya

Isabel Anaya earned her BA with a Spanish Endorsement from Ball State University in 1999, obtained her Masters in Education in 2005, and is pursuing her doctoral degree in Education. This year marks her 18th year of teaching with Northside Independent School District in San Antonio. As a 5th grade teacher at Kuentz Elementary, she is responsible for the academic, emotional, physical and social development of students before they transition to middle school. She also sponsors several after school clubs including LEGO Robotics, Solar Cars, Theater for a Cause, and EcoFriends. Her heart is in making a difference in the environment and igniting that passion in others. Ms. Anaya teaches students to understand the impact they are making in their environment on a daily basis with the simple act of recycling. She is the lead sponsor for the PepsiCo Recycle Rally at Kuentz. The campus won and was recognized for recycling the most #1 plastic containers and non-alcoholic aluminum cans in the nation! Since leading EcoFriends for the past 8th years, students have recycled over 17 million containers! After months of hard work conducting EcoAudits, she also led her students in winning five EcoRise grants which helped fund the first water filling station at any elementary school in the district. To build awareness and reverse monarch decline, her students joined NWF in launching the Monarch Heroes Program at Kuentz. Students worked with community volunteers, building two butterfly garden beds in addition to an outdoor garden classroom. Ms. Anaya serves on the Board of Directors for Keep San Antonio Beautiful and is an EcoRise Ambassador. She is also the recipient of several education awards including the Trinity Prize in Excellence in Teaching, HEB Excellence in Education Award, and will be recognized this summer for the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.


STATE WINNERS

Alabama - Ricky Conte

Ricardo Conte is an Elementary Education graduate from the University of Montevallo. He has been a classroom teacher for the past six years. Currently, he is a sixth-grade Earth & Space Science teacher at Simmons Middle School in Hoover, Alabama. In his first year teaching, Mr. Conte was recognized as Shelby County's First Year Teacher of the Year, and also won teacher of the year for his school. In 2014, He was named the Outstanding Young Alumnus in the College of Education by the University of Montevallo. The following year, the University of Montevallo awarded Mr. Conte with the Heart of Service Award for his continued work and dedication to education. During the summer, Mr. Conte is an Earth & Space Science trainer for A+ College Ready which aims to equip and empower teachers with curriculum and confidence to teach hands on lessons to get students excited about learning science. Mr. Conte would describe his teaching style as high energy, and off-balance. He is a firm believer that if an educator is not excited about what they are teaching, their students will not be excited to learn either. With energy and enthusiasm he leads his kids in hands-on scientific inquiry to better understand that forces that shape and change our planet and the universe.

Alaska - Renee Drummond

Working in a region of the world as unique as Alaska creates wonderful opportunities for a teacher to explore Earth Science ideas in the classroom using place-based curriculum. Following a constructivist approach, taking students outside, allowing them to actually see and experience the content in a real way makes learning exciting and connected to their everyday lives. The desire to help students connect to the content in this way has driven my work creating curriculum for the nine years I have been teaching. The University of Alaska, Southeast is also full of staff members who are actively doing research on Earth Science topics and who give generously of their time, visiting classroom and inspiring the next generation of scientists. Juneau is also experiencing a push to recognize the wealth of knowledge embedded in the Tlingit cultural creation stories and practices, which allow students to connect to their world and each other in ways that can not be taught through standard Western Science practices alone. I am honored to be a part of teaching in this community, where science is seen not only as a way to look out at the world, but to allow students to connect to it and recognize their personal impact.



California - Kevin Lebsack

My name is Kevin Lebsack, and I teach all sciences at Cuyama Valley High School. I have been teaching here for 15 years, and pride myself on giving my students the best education, they will be able to use after leaving our school. I received my credential in Chemistry from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and pride myself on taking what I've learned and applying it to the classroom. I prepare them in the current trends and obstacles we face surrounding agriculture within our valley, as we are rural and many come from a similar background. We spend a lot of time on the farm, learning science using real world perspective. The students spend most of their time finding new ways to plant, grow, and produce food. My goal is that when my students leave here, they leave here as leaders. They are able to grow their own food, along with yours and mine; and speak to their practices. Receiving this honorable reward helps prove to my students that their hard work does not go unnoticed, and that anything is obtainable with hard work and dedication. Thank You.


Connecticut - Lindsay Waak

I graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.S. in Secondary Science Education ('15) and a M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction ('16) both with the focus of Geophysics and Geology. I teach at Fairfield Ludlowe High School in Fairfield, CT where I have taught Environmental Earth Science, Astronomy, Geology, Meteorology, and Biology over the past three years. My teaching philosophy is comprised of three aspects; students are people, students should feel ownership in their learning, and learning is powerful when it is purposeful. Students wear many hats throughout their day and academic year, maintaining awareness of this helps me to remain supportive through the highs and lows that come with teaching adolescents. My teaching practices are a product of being exposed to the Next Generation Science Standards throughout my educator training. I incorporate storylines and anchoring phenomenon in my classes to contextualize curriculum in the hopes of making it purposeful and memorable for students. In class, my students can be found pursuing their curiosities, modeling their understandings, and engaging one another in discourse about their findings and real world events. I'm inspired by experiential learning. During summer, I travel to collect experiences and ideas from as many people and places as I can fit into my break. I find that my teaching is enriched when my own curiosities are satiated.


Florida - Maggie Paxson

Maggie Paxson teaches Cambridge AS and A Level Biology, AS Level Environmental Management, and AP Biology at Gainesville High School, where she has worked for 7 years. Maggie has a bachelor's degree in Entomology and Nematology and a Masters of Education in Secondary Science Education, both from the University of Florida. An avid participant in multiple K12 paleontology teacher outreach programs through the Florida Museum of Natural History, Maggie is especially interested in the 3D digitization and printing of fossils and other priceless scientific objects, and the roles these digital or tangible models can play in secondary science education and student engagement. In 2018, she and a colleague founded the Gainesville Youth Fossil Club, an amateur fossil collecting and curating club for primarily high school aged students in Gainesville. Maggie lives in Gainesville, FL with her wife Sarah, their grumpy house cat, and their two beautiful basset hounds.


Georgia - Deborah Lynn Sheppard

Debbie Sheppard graduated with a BS in Elementary Education from West Virginia University. She is beginning her 35th year teaching 6th Grade Earth Science at Taylor Road Middle School in Johns Creek, Georgia. Debbie was a charter member of Taylor Road where she takes pride in her community and school. She has a love for learning about science and works to create a love for science with her students. Debbie has been very involved in the middle school by participating in or overseeing several programs within the school building and Fulton County School system such as Green School Club, 121 Reach tutoring, Science Olympiad coach, teacher and student mentor, science ambassador, local school advisory committee, RTII/SST/504 chairperson for the school, school beautification, and on the board of Fulton Charitable Fund. Debbie just recently finished a two-year Math Science Partnership program with Fulton County Schools, Georgia State University and Georgia Tech where she learned new strategies such as Argument Driven Inquire to implement the new national standards to meet the needs of today's students. Outside the classroom, Debbie is very involved in her church and with her family and friends.



Indiana - John Hesser

John "Jack" Hesser has taught 7th grade science in Indianapolis Public Schools for three years. He is a proud graduate of Ball State University where he received a B.S. in Biology. Upon graduating, Hesser completed a Transition to Teaching program through Teach for America, during which he was placed at H.L. Harshman Middle School. After graduating with his M.A. in Teaching from Marian University, he continued teaching at the same school.

In his classroom, choice plays an important role in student empowerment and engagement. Each unit students choose between texts, projects, and debate topics to demonstrate their mastery and growth. Emboldening students fosters ownership and pride in their work, which more deeply engages them in the content. Hesser also places an emphasis on cross-curricular connections and skill development, specifically as it relates to E.L.A. and math. He further promotes these connections by coaching Science Olympiad, giving his students an important opportunity to explore their own S.T.E.M. related passions.

Outside of the classroom, Mr. Hesser chaired the NSTA's Urban Science Education Advisory Board, served as a fellow with the Leadership for Educational Equity, and worked with the IDOE. Currently, he also serves part time at a local Japanese restaurant.


Michigan - Sarah Geborkoff

Sarah Geborkoff teaches earth and general science courses at Houghton Middle School. Between 2015 and 2016, Geborkoff raised funds to erect a snow load greenhouse and garden for her school district; her students annually collaborate with the City of Houghton to start 100s of marigolds for city beautification projects, and members of her 4H youth club run an annual vegetable plant fundraiser for school field trips. Geborkoff is the lead teacher in her school's Lake Superior Stewardship partnership project; her students study water quality at a local urban creek, participate in shoreline clean-ups, and engage in invasive species removal projects. Geborkoff has been innovative in designing her science course curricula. Her 7th grade general science course is based on the year-long theme of water quality, properties, and importance as a resource. Her networking has lead to many sustained collaborations between the school and local community, including an annual three-week STEM project with MTU enterprise student teams that engages her 8th grade classes in the design, marketing, construction and testing and of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. She was awarded a 2019 American Meteorological Society Educator Grant to attend the annual national educators conference and was selected to study at Houston Space Center during the 2019 NASA LiftOff summer aerospace institute. She was awarded the MSTA Dan Wolz Water Educator Award in 2016, recognized as her school district's Outstanding Educator in 2017, and inducted into the Michigan Technological University Academy of Educators in 2017.


Minnesota - Jill Holz

Passionate about geoscience and sharing her excitement with young scholars, Jill Holz strives to engage students in exploring Earth's processes and landscapes. Through field experiences, hands-on inquiry, and student-driven research, Jill engages students through observations and exploration of our world with the goal of making connections to the world they interact with every day by uncovering the relationships of how the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere interrelate. Jill earned a BS in Geology & Geophysics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2004) and a M.Ed. in Middle School Science & Secondary Earth Science from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (2006). While attending the U of M, she was fortunate to work at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, writing K-12 curriculum based on SAFL research. A teacher for Wayzata Public Schools in Minnesota since 2005, Jill Holz taught 8th grade Earth Science for 11 years. In 2016, she began teaching science at the high school. She proposed, created, and now teaches "Geology of Minnesota" to high school students. This field-based course has students traveling throughout Minnesota, making observations at geological landmarks; visiting taconite, dimension stone, and aggregate mines; and touring research and industry facilities to better understand the use of Earth's resources. In the classroom, students use a variety technologies to communicate their geoscience knowledge, develop and run their own experiments, and make connections Minnesota's geological resources with an emphasis on stewardship and making responsible decisions about our planet. In 2018, Ms. Holz became a National Geographic Certified Educator.


Mississippi - Brooke Dodd

Mrs. Brooke Dodd teaches science to 79 excited fifth graders at East Webster Elementary School. She has been teaching for seven years and has furthered her education by earning multiple degrees. Mrs. Dodd received her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Mississippi State University in 2012. She diligently worked to earn her Master's Degree in 2015 and Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership in 2018 from Arkansas State University. Mrs. Dodd is an engaging and energetic teacher. Through proven success, she prefers teaching her classes in small groups as this results in rigorous and efficient learning through active participation, group discussion, and student engagement. She motivates students effectively through her rigorous lessons compiled of earth, life, and physical science objectives. She is dedicated to the success of her students, not only in the classroom but in life as well. Mrs. Dodd's teaching philosophy encompasses a variety of themes that work together to create success in her classroom. She exhibits passion and enthusiasm as she teaches the students to think like scientists by awakening the natural curiosity and passion for learning science that is too often lost in middle school. She implements real-world problem solving by allowing the students to use the engineering-design process. Mrs. Dodd helped create and organize booths for the local STEM Night in which parents come with their children to experience a night of science and math. She also actively writes grants for science equipment that is utilized in her science classroom. Mrs. Dodd also has been recognized as Teacher of the Month numerous times in her tenure as a teacher.


New Jersey- Matthew Fichter

Matthew Fichter is finishing his 6th year teaching 6th-Grade Earth & Space Science at Hillside Avenue School in Cranford, NJ. After completing his BSED in Earth & Space Science at West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 2013, Matthew went on to complete his Masters in Sports Administration & Coaching at Montclair State University. Matthew strives to provide students with "voice & choice" during his instruction, and attempts to make each of his students feel as though they are the scientist, rather than just a student. Learning should not take place just within the classroom, which has lead Matthew to organize service projects, weekend hikes, and personalized field trips for his students. He is the Middle School Environmental Club Advisor as well as the 6th Grade Class Advisor. He has been successful in receiving multiple grants for educational purposes, including the construction of a school rain garden, indoor aquaponic system, as well as in-school closed-circuit television monitors to broadcast school news. Matthew was his school's 2017-18 "Teacher of the Year" candidate, and looks forward to continuing his travels around the Earth, so he can bring his experiences back into the classroom.


New York - Christine Scavone

I have been teaching for 20 years, with 18 years I as a NYC Public school in Far Rockaway, NY. As an undergraduate I attended Plattsburgh State University and I then attended Long Island University-C.W. Post for my Master's degree. I spent my first 11 years as a NYC teacher teaching all subjects in either 2nd or 3rd grade. For the past 7 years I have been teaching fifth grade science. I wholeheartedly believe that science should be experienced by engaging in hands-on on inquiry activities. It should connect to their daily lives and answer questions about natural phenomenons. For this reason, each year I partner with community organizations, park rangers, and participate in citizen science activities to connect with our local parks and beaches. We've explored the History of Trash in NYC, visiting Dead Horse Bay to see the effects of Robert Moses' roadways on the trash in NYC beaches and waterways. One year the 5th graders hosted a rally for the future. We offered recycling plastic artwork stations, a beach clean-up, and gave speeches sharing our visions for coastal communities to do their part as stewards of the environment to help keep our oceans clean, in a multi-school event. Another year we partnered with NYU graduate students and the NYC Audubon to study the relationship between horseshoe crabs and migrating birds, and the environmental factors that affect their populations.


North Carolina - Marta Toran

My path to geoscience education has been rather unorthodox. Geology is about the only science I didn't take in college, it was never on my radar. In fact, I don't think I was even aware the field of geology existed back then. After completing a Masters in Secondary Science Education, I was at a crossroads of whether to go back to teaching high school biology or starting a PhD program. That's when I stumbled upon another path, as the Outreach Coordinator in the Geology Department (now Geological and Environmental Sciences) at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. It's hard not to be turned on to earth science when surrounded by world class geologists who are not only passionate about their research but also try incessantly to get everyone else around them just as excited about it. Their interests and our very enthusiastic students fuel the outreach programs I design, and my own educational journey in the field. I love that I still get to work with K-12 students and teachers to help strengthen science education in the region. Our most recent project was converting an old RV into a mobile earth science classroom (the "Geobago) to reach underserved, rural schools.


Ohio - Michael Koenig

I earned my A.S. from Edison State Community college in 2001. I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Akron with my B.A. in AYA Earth/Life science education in 2004. I was awarded a scholarship in 2009 to complete my masters degree at Wright State University. I completed my M.S.Ed. in Earth Science Education in 2012. In 2017 I was selected for sponsorship by a local aggregate company to complete a study of the local aggregate industry entitled 'Project Stone' through Wright State University. I have been teaching high-school for fourteen years and have served as an adjunct in the evenings at Edison State Community college for the last four years. I currently teach Geology full time at both the high-school and undergraduate levels. My teaching philosophy is simple; to provide as many opportunities for my students as possible through either hands-on lessons or field experience. Science is best learned when done, not simply talked about. I want to instill in my students a healthy amount of skepticism and enough critical thinking skills to serve them for the remainder of their lives. In addition to my teaching schedule I also serve as the county Science Day Coordinator. This provides my students with a direct avenue to think critically and complete independent scientific research of their design. Additionally, for the past six years I have served as both a district and state-level science day judge.


Oregon - Jim Hartmann

Jim Hartmann has been teaching field sciences -- geology, ecology, and environmental sciences -- at West Linn High School for 30 years. Previous teaching honors include WLHS Teacher of the Year, The Tualatin Riverkeepers Green Heron Award, the Oregon Academy of Sciences Teacher of the Year, and the President's Council of Environmental Quality Environmental Educator Award. He has served on the Board of the Oregon Science Teachers Association and as President of the Environmental Education Association of Oregon. His teaching philosophy is based on the belief that field science is best learned in the field, and he makes sure that his students have many field-based learning opportunities to study and explore the world around them.


Pennsylvania - Andrea Mangold

Andrea Mangold is a Pennsylvania teacher dedicated to teaching students about Earth science through active exploration and inquiry based learning. Andrea has been teaching in the Council Rock School District since 2012; she is also adjunct instructor at Bucks County Community College. Andrea is especially interested in the convergence of Earth and Space science, and combines the two to engage students more deeply. Andrea serves as a NASA-JPL Solar System Ambassador, and a CASIS Space Station Ambassador. Andrea is also a Space Foundation Teacher Liaison, and was a recipient of the Dr. Rochelle Abrams Space Across the Curriculum scholarship in 2018. Andrea enjoys traveling to observatories, professional workshops, and geological sites across the United States. Andrea has been selected to attend the Library of Congress STEM Educator Program in Washington, D.C. this summer. She is currently working on certification as a National Geographic educator. Andrea was recently awarded a grant by the Council Rock Education Foundation to bring VR technology to the classroom using Google Expedition devices. Andrea lives near Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania.


South Carolina - Kimberley D. Norris-Jones

My name is Kimberley Norris-Jones and my teaching philosophy is simple-all students are capable of success-it is my job to help them find it. I help them find success using interactive graphics, hands-on labs, re-teaching and gaming along with directed learning.

I earned my BA in Geology along with an Officer's commission into the US Army Reserve from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in 1987. After working for the United States Geological Survey, I obtained an MAT in Secondary Education and Earth Sciences. Following a 16-month deployment to the Middle East, I began teaching a variety of science courses in 2006. In 2014, in part because of my background in education, I was the first Reserve LTC to preside over an Adjutant General Critical Task Selection Board. This board selects officer-learning tasks for the next five-year cycle. Since returning from my third deployment in 2015, I have had the pleasure of teaching Earth Science, Chemistry and Environmental Studies, which was the most challenging as there are no SC standards; therefore, after lots of research, I created a curriculum based on sustainability. In 2016, I was awarded the Game-On! Award for my work with students in reinvigorating our school's Shakespeare's Garden.


Tennessee - Andrea Starks

Andrea Starks just completed her 11th year of teaching. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee Martin with a major in secondary English education. After several years of teaching middle grades ELA, she was assigned a 6th grade science course that she "was dreading, but ultimately so thankful for because it changed my life." Since then, her desire for learning all things science has been insatiable.

Valuing professional growth opportunities, Andrea seeks to learn from fellow educators and experts whenever possible. She was recently chosen to participate in the highly-selective FDA's Science and Our Food program in Washington, D.C. Andrea has also served as a presenter at several prestigious state and national conferences including the TSTA Annual Conference and twice at the NSTA National Conference.

Andrea's teaching philosophy centers around the idea that science truly is an experience, and all students should have the full experience. She strives to make her class interactive and meaningful for all demographics of students. She meets them at their individual learning level, then challenges them. Having felt lost as a student in science class, Andrea actively works to show all students, especially females, that they can be successful in and enjoy science. Incorporating technology and hands-on activities are essential elements routinely used in her classroom to help students grow academically, emotionally, and socially. The ultimate goal is to help them be the best versions of themselves and well-rounded citizens of the world.

Andrea currently teaches 8th grade General Science and a food science themed enrichment course at Houston Middle School in Germantown, TN. She is active in her school community and serves as the sponsor for the boys basketball team. Many students fondly refer to her as "Mama Starks." Witnessing the success of her students confirms for Ms. Starks that she has found her calling.


Virginia - Christopher Bowring

I have been employed by Rockbridge County Schools for 32 years. I have been awarded the "Wildcat Inspirational Award" two times. I earned a B.S. in Geology from Washington & Lee University in 1987. My approach to teaching has always been to excite and challenge all students. I have introduced many project assignments that I have designed and created for the students. I give the students an opportunity to be creative. One particular assignment that has been successful is the "Creek Project". Students locate a creek in Rockbridge County near their home. Each week, the students use simple tools to measure the volume of the water in the creek. They also collect and photograph the aquatic larva in the creek; in addition, they collect and identify the sediment pebbles and the bedrock beneath the creek; graphs of the "change over time" of the volumes are also produced. This is a fun and rewarding project. During the winter months, the students build a cardboard model of the Grand Canyon. The different layers of the actual canyon are represented in cardboard. We construct this model in class and the students learn the names of the rock layers as they build the "canyon". I have coached girls' cross-country for twenty years; boys' and girls' lacrosse for several years, and wrestling for over fifteen years. Coaching has been an integral part of teaching. I have enjoyed mentoring the students in a sport. I participated in cross-country and wrestling in high school and feel a strong connection to the athletes who strive to excel in these sports. During the summer months, I organize two week long camping trips for students in my classes. I have been guiding these trips for as long as I have been teaching. I take the groups of students (usually about ten boys and girls per trip) to the southwestern part of the United States. We camp out in the National Parks and visit the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Yosemite N.P., Death Valley, Mt. Whitney, Disneyland, and Joshua Tree. The trips last for two weeks and have always been a highlight for the students. We usually take a white water raft trip down the Merced River or the South Fork of the American River as well. I will retire this year but will miss the experience of teaching very much.


Washington - Alice Ryan

Alice Ryan has been a teacher in either Science or Special Education teaching the replacement science classes for 7 years, the last three have been at Quileute Tribal School. Her teaching is grounded in the appreciation of differences. She teaches with hands on exploration where she is enjoys learning right alongside her students, modeling how to learn, think and make mistakes, change direction and keep on going.

Alice has worked hard in La Push to collaborate with other schools, and programs like the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. She has reached for any opportunity to help her students rise to real world challenges. Thanks to Alice students at QTS have had the opportunity to participate in Nickelodeon and NEEF's "Get Dirty" Student ambassador program, Ocean Guardian School program.

She says that her students are the reason that the school has an award winning ROV team. Her students also prepare for and bring to the community a "Carnival of Science" so that everyone can have fun with science.

Alice Ryan is personally passionate about Mineralogy and Petrology and can be found in or out of school igniting students' interest in the geology around them.



West Virginia - Angela McKeen

After earning my BA in Secondary Science Education from Fairmont State, I began teaching in 1995 in rural Appalachia. In my third year of teaching, I was presented with the WOW award for influential teaching among colleagues and students. I taught for just over three years before taking a nine year leave of teaching to raise my family and further my education. While earning my master's and doctorate at West Virginia University, I became an adjunct then a professor for Fairmont State University in their geoscience department. After five years in higher education, I decided to return to the middle school and high school classrooms while my four children were still in school. Teaching earth science has always been my passion. Showing children how to find and collect fossils, how to read the rocks like a story in the Earth, and how to fall in love with geology and its relationship to the formation and evolution of life spark my enthusiasm like no other type of science. I help students construct understanding through experiences in and out of the classroom. My final exam for ninth grade Earth and Space Science is always an all-day field experience that ties geological processes, the breakdown of rocks to form soils, the chemistry of the soils resulting from the parent material, the type of vegetation that grows in an area based on the chemistry of the soils, and finally how the vegetation influences the wildlife that inhabit a region. I love seeing students realize that geology is the basis for the world that surrounds them.


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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