2022 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award Winners

Jump to: Section Winners | State 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 apply themselves or nominate a colleague for the award.


Amanda Savrda - Southeastern Section and Alabama State winner

Amanda Savrda teaches Earth and Environmental Science at Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama. After earning her B.S. in Geology from Auburn University in 2008, Amanda obtained her M.S. in Geological Sciences from the University of South Carolina, where she was a USC Partner's in Inquiry Teaching Fellow at Crayton Middle School in Columbia, SC. As a team member of the United States Antarctic Program Special Project G-432-E, Amanda's M.S. research focused on the thermotactic history of rocks of Palmer Land, Antarctic Peninsula. Following graduate school, Amanda spent 5 years working in the oil and gas industry as a Senior Geoscientist in ExxonMobil's Exploration Company in Houston, Texas. In 2016, Amanda returned to Auburn to pursue her M.Ed. in General Science Education as a graduate research assistant in AU College of Education's Department of Curriculum and Teaching, supported by NSF's NanoBio Math Science Partnership. Following completion of her M.Ed. in 2017, Amanda served AU's Department of Geosciences as an Introductory Geology instructor for a semester. Amanda has since taught 10th, 11th, and 12th graders at Auburn High School while earning both her National Geographic Educator Certification in 2019 and a NISE National Certificate for STEM Teaching in 2022.

Amanda leverages her passion for STEM and experiences in both research and industry to help students connect their everyday lives to science content in the classroom. As students learn about the materials that make up our planet, the processes that shape it, the changes it has experienced throughout its history, and the role of humans in shaping our environment, Amanda strives to "make the world the classroom" for her students. In Earth Science, students use NOAA publications to explore relationships between global phenomena such as the Southern Oscillation and tornado frequency in Alabama. In Environmental Science, students use ArcGIS to understand how epidemiologists map epidemics such as cholera or pandemics such as COVID-19. Amanda's lessons are rife with real-world applications and connections and involve active research, interpretation of real-world and real-time data, and exploration and analysis of the relationships between local, regional, and global phenomena. When it comes to science content, Amanda's goal is to help the students answer the infamous question: "So what?!" Her contagious passion and enthusiasm inspires curiosity in her students and empowers them to see beyond "what" they are learning to "how" and "why" what they are learning matters to them personally.

Over the past 15 years, Amanda has participated in K-12 science outreach as a science camp counselor, boy scout geology merit badge instructor, geology guest speaker, STEM outreach instructor, and geosciences career representative for middle school and high school students in Alabama and South Carolina. While an undergraduate, Amanda was a charter member of AU's Chapter of the Association for Women in Science and maintains a vested interest in supporting women and underrepresented minorities in the geosciences. Amanda has been an active member of Auburn University's Department of Geosciences Advisory Board since 2015, helping to support the next generation of geoscientists through academic scholarships and career assistance.

Kerry Lockwood - Pacific Northwest

Kerry Lockwood is an Earth Science and rock enthusiast, with 32 years of experience educating students ranging from kindergarten to grade 12. She currently teaches Chemistry, Earth Science, and general science in Coquitlam. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology, a Bachelor of Education Degree in Science, and a Master of Education Degree in Science.

A major influence on her teaching came 13 years into her career with the decision to switch from high school Chemistry, Biology, and Geology teacher to an elementary teacher-librarian. This did not exonerate her love for Science. Her passion was known, and her treats became rocks and sand thoughtfully collected and shared by students and families.

Beyond educating her own students, Kerry is active in multiple projects that support teachers to further science education in their own classrooms. Since 1996, she has been Fisheries and Oceans Canada Salmonids in the Classroom program coordinator for the Coquitlam School district. She delivers salmon eggs to classrooms and supports teachers as they create educated stewards. She has received the Canada 150 Community Leader award for her work in preventing the program from being defunded. Kerry's enthusiasm for Earth Science has been shared through MineralsEd as she is the lead writer and creative developer of MineralsEd's Grade 7/8 Earth Sciences Resource Unit. She has presented the in-service workshop for this outstanding unit to teachers around British Columbia since 2011 and facilitates MineralsEd's teacher Pro-D programs at AME's Roundup conference.

Education is multidimensional and it requires the ability to be able to identify the needs of specific learners, support them with their challenges, and make education significant. Through her active science teaching, Kerry continues to find ways to create, challenge, and be engaging in order to develop a connection and curiosity to science in our everyday world.

Lorraine Cathey - Far Western

Lorraine Cathey has been an educator for twenty-eight years in the San Francisco Bay Area, teaching in public, charter, and Catholic schools. Lorraine began her career in education as the director of the San Francisco Title V American Indian Education Project and focused on local California Native Tribes and their cultures. Since then, Lorraine has built a science curriculum around sustainability, stewardship, and inquiry. Collaborations with the Marine Mammal Project, GLOBE, and now NAGT, as well as the Exploratorium Teacher Institute have broadened the scope and depth of learning for her students.

Concurrent with her position as Project Director of Title V, Lorraine was also school secretary and head volunteer at New Traditions Creative Arts Elementary in San Francisco. As such, she wrote grants and fulfilled observation hours prior to enrolling in the MATE Clinical Schools Credentialing Program at SFSU. While at New Traditions, Lorraine was able to work with teachers on cross-curriculum development, integrating social studies with art and literature, music with mathematics, and science with Poets in the Schools.

Since earning her Multiple Subject CLAD Credential in 2000, Lorraine continues to expand her teaching practices. She has brought math and science together with art through San Francisco Youth Arts Festival entries, started up a string orchestra at KIPP Bayview Academy, helped to pilot the Marine Mammals Ocean Ambassadors program at Visitation Valley Middle School, and is currently developing thematic units on the San Francisco Bay Area at St. Thomas the Apostle School. Hands-on learning (augmented reality sandbox, Lab-Aids, Nature Journals) and modeling stewardship and a sense of place are foremost in Lorraine's teaching practices. Being nominated and then awarded through the National Association of Geosciences Teachers will further compel Lorraine to collaborate, encouraging students and colleagues to explore, inquire, and share. She is deeply grateful for this honor.

Yvonne Garrison - Central

Yvonne Garrison has been teaching at Mason County High School for ten years. She earned a B.S. in Biology from Morehead State University, her M.S. in Biology with Emphasis in Ecology from Eastern Kentucky University an M.A. in Teaching from Morehead State University. Before teaching, she held internships and jobs as a field biologist for the Ohio EPA and at the Ohio River Sanitation Commission, in which she conducted many water tests and fish population sampling in the Ohio River and basin tributaries. Her experiences in the field of environmental science have carried into her classroom. Yvonne began her teaching career in 2012 and is currently teaching several subjects including biology, AP Environmental Science, and general college biology. Yvonne is also coach of the Mason County Envirothon Team. Under her leadership, the team regularly qualifies and competes at the state level.

In her biology classes, Yvonne takes a Project-Based Learning approach. Some questions are small, phenomena-based questions, and then some questions are quite large: real-world problems in which the students design and implement real solutions. Yvonne has been fortunate enough to receive several different grants in order to implement different projects over the years ranging from climate action to watershed management to increasing native biodiversity on school campus. In particular, the watershed management study was quite large, requiring studies of hydrology and storm-water management on school grounds, water testing, and biotic index stream studies, identifying water quality problems within the stream, proposing solutions, and finally design implementation. Yvonne took students on several field trips to water treatment facilities, businesses that have green roofs, permeable surface parking lots, rain gardens, and rain barrels to help students see these designs to mitigate for stream health implemented in real life. After reviewing student project proposals on how to improve the water quality (and quantity) in our stream flowing at the edge of the school campus, some student teams were selected to implement their projects. They were given use of the funds from the TC energy grant and, in the course of the 2020-2021 school years, students planted over 100 trees on school grounds to improve the riparian zone around our stream and also installed a large rain garden below a parking lot to manage water before it enters into the storm-water drain system on the school campus, which empties directly into our stream.

Yvonne enjoys finding new problems... and solutions every year!

Wendy Grimshaw - Eastern Section and Virginia State

Wendy Grimshaw is a middle school science teacher at Andrew Lewis Middle School in Salem, Virginia. Throughout over 25 years of teaching, Wendy has aspired to engage students in inquiry-based learning that fosters interpretation of the world through a geoscience lens. Her BA in Middle Grades Education (Piedmont College, GA), MEd in Diverse Student Populations (University of Mary Washington), and Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: Integrative STEM Education (Virginia Tech), have provided the foundations upon which Wendy has built her teaching practice. Motivated by her students' curiosity, she promotes content literacy through experiential learning, interdisciplinary problem solving, and engineering design activities. Wendy employs a CER-modeled IT Field Book routine that develops her students' ability to reflect on scientific observations, express ideas, generate drawings, and demonstrate learning. Wendy's students apply geoscience learning when connecting with community partners like Trout Unlimited, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society during service learning, citizen science, and grant-funded outdoor education experiences. As an educator, Wendy has served on advisory boards, as a mentor teacher, on curriculum writing teams, and as the proprietor of The Learning Barn LLC, a sustainability-focused STEM school she opened on her farm in 2015. Since 2012, Wendy has served as a KidWind coach and judge for hundreds of Virginia middle and high school students as they've researched, designed, built, and tested small-scale wind turbines to harness wind energy for electrical production. Teams of her students twice advanced to the national level, winning the national challenge in 2017. Wendy has regularly participated in professional development opportunities including NASA Space Camp for Educators, the TSGC/NASA Lift Off! Program, and many other state, national, and international STEM conferences. Since 2009, she has attended NAGT Eastern Section meetings, bringing many innovative ideas and resources back to her classroom.

Joanna Latham - New England Section

Joanna Latham is an Upper School Science teacher at Milton Academy (located in Milton, Massachusetts), where she teaches geology and foundational science courses including physics and chemistry; Joanna also is the second Vice President for the National Association of Geoscience Teachers' New England section. Joanna's experience as a professional geologist in the mining, environmental, and geotechnical industries cut the path to her life career as an educator. While working as a geologist in the consulting industry, Joanna began teaching "The Geology of the Boston Area" with Northeastern University's College of Professional Studies in 2007; this inspired her to continue teaching as an adjunct while working in the consulting industry, and ultimately guided her to the high school classroom. Joanna as such has had the opportunity to work with a range of learners from diverse backgrounds, giving rise to her "mission": through a combination of passion and compassion, Joanna strives to create an environment that inspires students to be confident in their authentic selves and their abilities and aspires to help them find their joy in learning as they discover themselves as individuals and an essential part of a whole, and as lifelong learners. At present, Joanna works with high school students, and with all grade levels, she seeks to productively challenge and engage students through hands-on inquiry-based explorations that both incorporate "real world" connections and foster a love for the natural world. These explorations take advantage of the rich variety of educational resources in the Boston area, including, of course, the great outdoors.


Veronica Wylie - Mississippi

Originally from Denver Colorado, Veronica Wylie is currently a High School Teacher in Hazlehurst Mississippi. After graduating from Denver East High School, she went on to receive a B.S. in Chemistry from Loyola Marymount University, an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado at Denver, and an M.Div. from Denver Seminary. She will complete an M.S. in Chemistry Education from Illinois State University and a PhD at Jackson State University in the fall of 2022. Veronica recently completed an internship with NASA's Office of STEM Engagement. She worked with the Moon to Mars Team and helped to design and pilot the NASA SPARX competition, develop the Totally Artemis Camp Guide, and act as a Point of Contact for the PAGE activity. While interning at NASA, she completed an anti-racism in science research fellowship through Lab-X-Change and Harvard University. Veronica served as a 2021 FFT fellow and was able to learn to Scuba Dive. She is in the process of introducing community youth to the world of SCUBA. During her spare time, Veronica runs STEMSouth; a small non-profit that aims to develop "success, tenacity, excellence, and merit through science, technology, engineering, and math." Veronica is a lifelong learner.

Beth Allcox - Wisconsin

Beth Allcox is in her 18th year of teaching science at New Holstein High School. She earned her bachelor of science in Biology from UW Whitewater in 1992 and her masters in Secondary Education with an emphasis in Physics from UW River Falls in 2011.

She was chosen as a Science Teacher as Researchers (STAR) recipient and had the honor of spending two weeks at the Pacific Northwest National Lab, working in the glass lab. There she learned about the vitrification process being used to tackle the nuclear waste problem. Beth served six years as the district three director for the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers (WESTA) and is currently the chairperson for the Wisconsin Earth Science Teachers Association (WESTA), a sub-group of WSST.

Ms. Allcox has brought 3D printing into her classroom. This gives students the opportunity to create models of the concepts discussed in class. This gives them the opportunity to work with the concepts in greater detail.

Sara Snook - Maryland

Sara Snook is an 8th-grade Earth and Space science teacher at North Carroll Middle School in Hampstead, Maryland. After graduating from the University of Delaware in 2013 with degrees in Earth Science Education and English Education, she began her science teaching career. She is currently completing her Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from McDaniel College.

Sara tries to implement as much hands-on, inquiry-based learning as possible. She believes that she is a facilitator of learning, challenging students to explain or solve real-world phenomena and problems. In doing so, she promotes collaboration and communication among students. She aims to make science accessible and engaging for all students.

Sara has been a county curriculum writer since 2016 and a Maryland State Assessment item writer and scorer. She has been nominated for her county's outstanding teacher award and was part of a team of teachers that won the 2021 McLean Yoder Award for Professional Excellence.

In her free time, Sara likes to spend time with her husband, Nate, new baby girl, Emerson, and animals. She likes to travel, especially to national parks, with her family.

Nichole Erwin - Oregon

Nichole Erwin received her Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Oregon University and has been teaching 6th-grade science and math for 12 years, for the last four years strictly science. Nichole has been awarded the Crystal Apple Award for excellence in education, as well as, Sunridge Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Her whole life, Nichole has been interested in natural phenomena and brings that excitement and curiosity to the classroom. As sixth graders her students are just getting their first experiences in science as an everyday academic class, creating an environment where they feel comfortable sharing ideas and asking questions is important. Nichole's classroom is a very student-led environment with an emphasis on historical and real-life connections.

Nichole is also very involved outside of school hours in science activities. For the last 5 years, she has written grants and coordinated Girls in Science events for middle school girls at her alma amateur. Nichole also does after-school science clubs and is an education coordinator for the Pendleton Outdoor School Program.

Stefan Klakovich - North Carolina

Stefan has been an environmental science teacher since 1999, first in California and for the last 9 years in North Carolina where he was ecstatic to learn that Earth and Environmental Science is a high school graduation requirement for all students. He shares his passion for the environment everyday with his students and wants them to fall in love with our beautiful planet and its systems. He tells his students on the first day of class that he wants them to see their world differently when the year is finished. He feels that an understanding of how our world works helps build confidence and just makes life more interesting. He constantly challenges his students to be curious and to ask questions. To motivate students, he gets them outside of the classroom as much as possible, working on meaningful projects. He feels that if students are given the chance to become involved in constructive projects in the community, students will be less inclined to be involved in destructive activities. His students help manage several ongoing projects at his school including an oak reforestation project, apple orchard, community garden, native plant garden, and school composting program. He feels that students learn the most when they are engaged in real work.

Stefan also thinks that an important reason many students don't reach their potential is a fear of failing. "We need to give students opportunities to fail that don't hurt them academically" This philosophy requires him to give feedback that the students can act on to improve their work and their grades.

Stefan is happy that all of his Earth Science classes are now heterogeneously mixed. He says that differentiating the curriculum is one of the more difficult things he does but knows that all students benefit from this arrangement.

Michele Laverty - Nevada

Michele Laverty has been teaching Earth Science and Leadership for over 6 years. She is a graduate of San Jose State University where she studied Public Relations and Chemistry. After working more than 20 years in the agricultural field she returned to school, attending Grand Canyon University, and receiving a MA in secondary education.

Prior to becoming a teacher, Michele created and operated a mobile science lab providing hands-on agricultural science education to thousands of middle school students each year. This experience helped hone her belief that hands-on exploration and connecting to the local environment are key to helping students understand and want to learn about the Earth and their local environment.

Her educational philosophy is to connect the lessons to what the students see around them, providing scientific terms to things they have already experienced. She has found the key to student engagement is through projects where the students work in groups and explore topics on their own.

Michele has been a facilitator for the development of the pacing guide for Earth Science for her district and presented workshops for fellow educators. A professional development opportunity she enjoys is participating in the Nevada Mining Association's annual teacher training.

Zachary Miller - New York

Zach Miller is a middle school earth science teacher at John Jay Middle School in Cross River, New York. Zach has been teaching for more than 16 years at both the middle school and high school levels. Zach earned both geology and hydrology undergraduate degrees from SUNY Oneonta, and a teaching graduate degree from SUNY Purchase. This strong foundation in geosciences from SUNY Oneonta early on Zach credits for his passion for the subject, along with having taken an undergrad-level geology course while in High School from Steve Kluge (a past OEST award recipient). Zach strives to demonstrate the relevance of geosciences to students in 8th-grade accelerated regents earth science by requiring students to think critically and express their understanding. To this end, Zach enjoys incorporating technology in his lesson. For example, Google Earth® has become an integral part of his earth science course as both a teacher visualization tool and a tool for student-centered lab activities. Zach enjoys being the science fair coordinator, as well as, bringing in professional scientists and researchers into his classroom for "virtual field trips." Zach enjoys being a part of the SUNY Oneonta ESPRIT Listserv community to support teachers new to the geosciences.

Sandra Saye Foucqueteau - Louisiana

Sandra Saye-Foucqueteau is a fifth-grade Science teacher at Copper Mill Elementary in Zachary, Louisiana. She is passionate about Louisiana coastal protection and restoration efforts. Sandra engages students with both state and national environmental projects.

Her students strive to create new solutions for both natural and man-made issues of localized flooding from the Mississippi River, Louisiana's disappearing coastline, as well as global environmental issues. She has developed a culminating field trip for over 400 students to visit the newly opened LSU River Center Studies Facility.

Ms. Saye-Foucqueteau lives on sustainable Sunflower Farm and has received Certification from LSU's Garden Leadership program. She shares her farm and her travels as classroom phenomenon. Sandra was selected to attend Lamar University's "Teaching Environmental Science Institute", Texas A&M's Geology Camp, the Keystone Science's Environmental Institute, and numerous Louisiana workshops. She was named the Louisiana Science Teachers Association's Essie Beck "Rising Star". In August 2021, Sandra was selected to be a Fellow in the Louisiana Department of Education's Louisiana Coastal Fellowship. The fellowship held bimonthly trainings with Washington State University's project, Learning in Places, which promotes equitable, cultural, evidence-based science education in outdoor learning. These continual professional studies help Sandra instill a love of Earth Science in her students.

Christopher Willis - South Carolina