Initial Publication Date: October 12, 2023

2023 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 apply themselves or nominate a colleague for the award.


Kate Krischke-Grobart - Central Section winner

Ms. Krischke-Grobart is an environmental science teacher at the Waukegan High School in Waukegan, Illinois. Waukegan High School is a Title 1 school in a heavily industrialized town. Identified as an environmental justice community, there are multiple Superfund sites nearby, with sixty-one percent of the students living in underserved communities.

In addition to her classes, Ms. Krischke-Grobart has organized local and national field trips offering her students unique learning opportunities. With Lake Michigan only one mile from the school, Ms. Krischke-Grobart developed the Lake Michigan Literacy Curriculum, in coordination with the Lake Forest Open Lands Association, to teach students about the environmental, economic, and historical significance of the lake. Students take field trips to the lake, hear from local experts about lake pollution and loss of biodiversity from human activity.

By collaborating closely with Trout Unlimited and the Waukegan Park District, students in Ms. Krischke-Grobart's class advance their understanding of local conservation practices. They monitor and raise rainbow trout eggs and in the spring, release the trout fry into the local waterways. Ms. Krischke-Grobart also spearheaded the design of an outdoor classroom, providing a living laboratory to integrate environmental education into the broader school curriculum.

Ms. Krischke-Grobart recruited students to work with local experts, environmental naturalists, and research scientists to develop stewardship projects and travel to Yellowstone National Park each summer. Under a grant awarded by the Illinois Biodiversity Field Trip, her students have visited a local forest preserve to identify and remove invasive species in coordination with professionals. As founder and sponsor of the school's Environmental Club, Ms. Krischke-Grobart organizes extracurricular activities for both students and their parents to learn more about local environmental issues, sustainable and socially just environmental practices, and how to take action at the local level.

David R. Amidon - Eastern Section winner

David has been teaching middle school science and high school courses at LaFayette Jr/ Sr High School in Central NY since 1999. He is active in the school as the adviser for National Junior Honor Society, Science Olympiad, the ECOS Environmental Club, and a coach of many sports. Beyond the classroom, Dave is a Teacher Ambassador for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), Certified American Meteorological Society Teacher, and a Solar System Ambassador through NASA/JPL. David was also selected for the NOAA Teacher at Sea and New York State Master Teacher programs, and earned National Board Certification in 2021. He has collaborated on many projects with teachers to create learning opportunities and assessments at the local, state, and national levels, including "Curious Cloudy Connections" with the National Earth Science Teachers Association Data Network Project this past spring.
Mr. Amidon has also earned the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award, received the American Geoscience Institute (AGI) Edward C. Roy Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching, as well as the Paul DeHart Hurd Award from the National Middle Level Science Teacher Association. He has been awarded the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators from the Environmental Protection Agency two times and earned the Excellence in Teaching award from the Science Teachers Association of New York State for the Intermediate Level.

Sarah F. Faulkner - New England Section winner

Sarah Faulkner is an 8th grade science teacher at East Granby Middle School in Connecticut. An educator for 24 years, she has taught 8th grade science for the past eight years, with previous experience teaching grades 6-12 in Canton and West Hartford, as a K-12 STEAM administrator in Enfield, and as a secondary science curriculum administrator at the Capitol Region Education Council in Hartford (CREC). Her love of students returned her to the classroom in 2015 where she finds her joy. She holds a BA in Biology from Wellesley College, an MS in Biology from Southern CT State University, and an EdD in Educational Leadership from the University of Hartford. Dr. Faulkner loves all things science, and strives to bring the wonder and inquiry inherent in science to life in her classroom. She is particularly passionate about connecting students with the natural world, and her enthusiasm is contagious. She integrates current events, engineering and career opportunities, and skepticism in her lessons, and is dedicated to providing opportunities for mastery and success for all students. She has written many engaging student activities such as her Hope for the World project about climate change, and Letter to a Young Rock; has presented at national NSTA and CT Science Teacher conferences; and has published activities. She runs the school greenhouse, teaching students how to grow plants both indoors and in the outdoor bird/butterfly garden. She help students raise salmon and trout and holds an annual fish release field trip. She runs the after-school Greenhouse Club, Invention Convention Club, and Rocketry Club, leads international trips during vacations, and organizes annual charitable school events such as the Top Turkey food drive. Her classroom is abundant with science stuff -- rocks, books, globes, beaver sticks, bird nests, posters... creating a welcoming, energizing, and inspirational learning space.

Hillary Brown - Pacific Northwest Section winner

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest with volcanoes, fossils, and gorges, Hillary Brown always knew she wanted to study earth science. Her educational path led her to the University of Arizona to earn a B.S. in Geoscience, to the USGS in Menlo Park as a NAGT intern, to Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, and eventually to the University of Wyoming to earn a Ph.D. in Geophysics. She always assumed her science career would be one in research or industry, however, after moving to Houston to work in oil exploration, she realized she could have a much larger impact on the world by working to end educational inequity. She shifted careers, joining Teach for America's Houston Corps in 2010 as a teacher in a Title 1 high school.

Today, Hillary works at Ida B Wells High School in her home town of Portland, Oregon, teaching Geology and 9th grade Physics. Although students arrive in her Geology classes with a variety of different levels of experience in science, she finds that, whatever their background, all students benefit from using manipulatives and creating models to simulate complex geologic phenomena. Her students can often be seen acting out geologic processes through kinesthetic activities in the school hallways or building 3D models of faults and mineral crystals to improve their spatial skills. To synthesize a year's worth of learning, she leads her students in a hands-on field experience at the end of the course, applying what they've learned in the classroom to the rocks, faults, and features of the Columbia River Gorge.

Hillary has fostered relationships with scientists and graduate students, working in both research and industry, that has given her students a well-rounded look at the possible geoscience career paths. She is particularly grateful for her relationship with the Geology Department at Portland State University, which has allowed her students to have experiences usually reserved for undergraduates such as operating the SEM to perform chemical analysis on rock samples, and learning how to use petrographic microscopes to identify minerals in thin section.

Tammie Hodnett Marlow - Southeastern Section and Mississippi winner

Tammie received her Bachelor's degree from Delta State University and Master's degree from Mississippi Valley State University. She has continued her pursuit of Geoscience education by attending additional teacher programs: TANS at Mississippi State University; ExxonMobil Teacher Academy in Texas; Mississippi Science Teacher Academy at Jackson State University; and MAST at Southern University of Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

Tammie has taught for 24 years and has won Service Awards, Teacher of the Month, Teacher of the Year, and Outstanding Middle School Teacher for Mississippi because of her dedication to all students and support for other teachers.

Tammie is an active member of Mississippi Science Teacher Association where she shares hands-on labs that she has developed and incorporated from other programs. Being a life-long learner, she seeks out opportunities during summers that will equip her to better teach her students. Tammie considers it to be a privilege and honor to be in the classroom to instill students with love for the natural world.

She uses her love of people and passion for Science to teach students to be good stewards of our world like her parents, Gene and Carolyn, taught her. Her family (Will, Hannah, Sky, Wes) has helped her establish an after school program, the Home-Science-Garden Club. During club meetings students invite guest speakers that are experts in their fields, plant seasonal gardens which includes soil/water management, and they create fossil gardens with Mississippi gravel. Students also utilize Internet resources to identify rocks and fossils for the Fossil Gardens.

Tammie designs Science lab experiences with all of her students in mind, making learning relevant. She also believes advanced learning takes place when students have fun and feel like they are valued members of their class. Tammie goes above and beyond to make each student feel appreciated and loved.


Scott Coonfare - Alabama

Scott Coonfare is a high school teacher at Sparkman High School in Harvest. Scott has been teaching for more than 15 years and has been his school's Teacher of the Year three times and the Technology Teacher of the Year. Early in his career he created and secured all funding for a program that sent student science experiments to the International Space Station. He supervised the district competition resulting in student experiments being launched into space. He also made contacts with the Jet Propulsion Lab and began a long partnership which among other things allowed his students to take control of the telescope located in California to record real-time data on black holes. He has students work with The University of Alabama Huntsville to participate in a weather project that sends weather balloons to space. Students record data to author a scientific paper. Students also monitor volcanoes & earthquakes as well focusing on local projects affecting the environment. Mr. Coonfare achieves student buy-in with these authentic projects and partnerships, and helps students see real, meaningful science. They can't help but soar. Scott has a B.A. from the College of Wooster, OH and an A.S. from Johnson & Wales, RI.

Katherine Stoltz - Florida

Katherine Stoltz is an environmental science teacher at Alonso High School in Tampa, Florida, with seven years of teaching experience in Hillsborough County. She holds a B.S. in Secondary Science Education and an M.A. in Global Sustainability, specializing in Climate Mitigation and Adaptation, from the University of South Florida.

Katherine's teaching objective is to go beyond grades and encourage students to apply their understanding to the world around them. She fosters critical thinking and real-world application, making scientific understanding accessible to all. To achieve this, Katherine introduced Creative and Relational Summaries, a teaching approach developed by Dr. Thomas Culhane of the University of South Florida. This method empowers students to explore the intersection between their own lives and the course content, fostering personal connections to their learning and enhancing their comprehension of scientific principles.

Katherine's philosophy centers around inspiring the next generation of thinkers to be helpers of both humanity and the environment. She believes all students have the capacity to learn and grow in their scientific knowledge. Through her passion for education and dedication to environmental science, Katherine aims to shape young minds and empower them to become stewards of their communities and the natural world.

Nicole Marte - Georgia

Nicole Marte is a middle school science teacher at Trickum Middle School in Lilburn, Georgia. Nicole has been teaching for 7 years and was named Teacher of the Year in the 2022-2023 school year. She received her degree in Psychology and took an alternative approach to becoming a teacher. Nicole believes in the importance of holding her students to high expectations while also building strong relationships with them. Making science come alive is so rewarding for Nicole Marte!

Jon Schrage - Indiana

Jon Schrage earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from Purdue University after completing his bachelor's degrees in Statistics and Atmospheric Sciences from Creighton University. His research focused on African Meteorology while he taught for 20 years at the university level. In 2018, he transitioned to teaching dual-credit math and science courses at Early College High School in Evansville, Indiana. In addition to the NAGT award, he also recently received First Prize in The Henry Ford Innovation Nation Teaching Innovation awards for his work developing a website that produces and grades individualized homework sets for high school and college math teachers.

Mallory Wills-Howe - Iowa

Mallory Wills-Howe teaches Earth Science at George Washington in Cedar Rapids Iowa. She earned her undergraduate degree in Middle/Jr High School Science with High School Science Endorsements in Earth Science and Biology at the University of Northern Iowa in 2018. Mallory is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Science Education also from the University of Northern Iowa.

Mallory has been an instrumental part of a team in her building that redesigned the Earth Science curriculum to be more hands-on, inquiry-focused, and standards-based. This has led to a huge positive shift in student success and higher levels of engagement.

Over her teaching career Mallory has been dedicated to her students in and outside of school. Over the last five years, she has sponsored students to compete in Science Fairs, World Food Prize, attend HOBY Leadership Seminars, and organized quarry field trips. During the summers she works to design and implement science camps for elementary and middle school students to get them excited about STEM. Mallory has also been the recipient of the Science for Society STEM Research Grant.

Lacey Hoosier - Louisiana

Lacey Hoosier is a 17-year public high school science teacher in central Louisiana. Her philosophy is to instill a passion for the environment and a love for being inquisitive in all of the her students so she can create stewards of the environment and science professionals across the world. She is currently building an outdoor classroom area where her students can learn field techniques while studying native Louisiana flora and fauna. In addition, her STEM classes compete at the State and National level and have won many titles through innovative engineering practices and unique problem-solving. Lacey received her Masters in Physiology from NSU and her Bachelors in Biology from LSUA, both of which she was the top graduate. She has traveled to the Amazon rainforest and many different states out west to improve her teaching practices and develop innovative lessons for her rural students. Her teaching honors include: Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching LA State Finalist, National Science Teaching Association SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Educator of the Year, National Association of Biology Teachers Outstanding Biology Teacher of the Year, Buckeye High School Teacher of the Year, VOYA Unsung Hero, Golden Apple Award recipient, and a recipient of more than $55,000 in grants and educational awards.

Melissa (Missie) Olson - Minnesota

Melissa (Missie) Olson is an Earth Space Science teacher at Becker High School in Becker, MN. Missie has been teaching for 17 years. In addition to Earth Science, Missie teaches astronomy and dual credit courses in environmental science and Human Biology in conjunction with St. Cloud State University. Within her classroom, Missie focuses on developing and incorporating three-dimensional lessons that challenge the students to create and use models, analyze data, and apply concepts to real-world situations while developing relationships and supporting all students.
Missie is a Ph.D. Candidate focused on STEM Curriculum and Instruction at Texas Tech University. Her dissertation explores middle school students' content knowledge, identity, and perceptions in Earth science using iterative modeling.
Missie is dedicated to supporting young Earth Science teachers through presenting at professional conferences, hosting student teachers, and teaching Earth Science Concepts for elementary education majors at Bethel University.
Outside of the classroom, Missie enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family by camping, hiking, and visiting many natural areas. Missie also enjoys nature photography and has had images shared on Earth Science Picture of the Day website. This activities provide experiences with Earth that assist Missie in making Earh Science tangible for her students.

Andy Epton - Michigan

Andy Epton is a high school science teacher at Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn, MI. He teaches Earth Science, Environmental Science, and Astronomy. Andy has been teaching for 11 years in total with the last 3 at HFA. He previously taught in Virginia at Gretna High School and Martinsville High School. He went to Clemson University where he earned a BS Geology. Andy is a Teacher Ambassador for the National Center for Science Education and has been instrumental in creating lessons on climate change and the nature of science that are accessible to everyone. While in Virginia, Andy participated in the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA) program through George Mason University and Virginia Tech. Andy strives to incorporate Project Based Learning in his curriculum as it gives him and his students an opportunity to learn from each other.

Michele Cusack - New Hampshire

Michele Cusack began teaching in 2000 in Manassas, VA. She earned her BS in Environmental Studies from Union College and her MS in Secondary Education from Old Dominion University. She returned to New England (native of Connecticut) to teach in Salem, NH and currently as an Earth and Space Science teacher at the high school.

Michele's teaching philosophy stems from her experiences as a student and those teachers who made a difference. She believes every student can achieve what they need to with the correct strategies. Teaching a specific content; such as science, is not the entire picture. It is holding students accountable, setting expectations for them, and leading by example so they can become critical thinkers and great citizens. Teaching is not a one size fits all approach and we often need to think outside the box. Michele loves both the content she teaches as well as the students she teaches.

Michele's enjoyment for adventure connects her students with real life. Michele's experiences have taken her to many places and have helped her students understand Earth's spheres and their connections. She uses her student's interests as an integral part in the curriculum as they are also wonderful resources.

Joseph C. Perry - New York

A graduate of McQuaid Jesuit, SUNY Fredonia (BS) and SUNY Brockport (MS) Joseph (Joe) originally was going to be a teacher at the elementary level. Joe got "his foot caught in the door" at Palmyra Macedon (Pal-Mac) HS, found his passion for teaching Earth and Space Science, and has been doing so for the last 25 years.

Joe has had the honor of attending the programs of HESA 2018, CERN ITW 2022, and Shipboard Science 2023. He was a national finalist for AGI's Edward C. Roy Jr. Award (2019), obtained Nat-Geo certification (2018), is a New York State Master Teacher Emeriti, has received special recognition from Pal – Mac's BOE (2008) and the seniors of '08 and '21 dedicated yearbooks to him. Beyond the classroom Joe has been a part of his union's executive team for 22 years (local president for 4 years, county president for 10 years), and is an Eagle Scout and is an assistant scoutmaster in troops 166 and 6166.

Joe is passionate about getting his students outside of the classroom to experience science. He coordinates multiple field experiences to various NYS parks for not only his classes but many others in his school district. He has advised or co-advised trips to Europe and US national parks of the southwest. Joe lives in Palmyra with his wonderful wife Lisa of 22 years, and their three amazing children: Elizabeth, Kay, and Richard in the classes of '20, '23 and '25 respectively.

Charlene Horton - North Carolina

Charlene Horton is a middle school science teacher at Ashe County Middle School in Warrensville, NC. Charlene has been teaching for 4 years. She has an Elementary Ed degree from App State. Charlene believes that before a teacher can tell you their philosophy they need to ask themselves the fundamental question of Why are you a teacher? Charlene's why is the invisible child or the child that says that don't like science. She says challenge accepted! From her why, her philosophy was born. She cannot change the content that she teaches but she can change the way she teaches it. She found that in order to see willingness in students, you have to create that spark yourself. In a time where there appears to be no hope, as a teacher we have to be the igniters. Teaching outside of the box and making content real-world, relatable to them. Learning can be research based and student-led. Charlene has done a state wide PBL project on Tree Farms to connecting students with a school in Africa while learning about water quality. Students raised money to have a well installed! She is also a NC NASA Education Ambassador and partners with SpaceX in her classroom regularly.

Amy Umberger - South Carolina

Amy Umberger is the resident scientist at Dutch Fork Elementary School Academy of Environmental Sciences. She helps teachers with environmental projects at the school. She loves nature and enjoys getting small and tall learners outside as much as possible to help them connect to their community. She also helps to develop a community of environmentally responsible citizens and endeavors to teach sustainability through her daily actions.

Greg Smith - Tennessee

Greg Smith is a high school science teacher at John Overton High School in Nashville, TN. Greg has been teaching the Interdisciplinary Science and Research program at John Overton for 4 years, where he teachers student to be scientists through inquiry-based projects, experiential learning at field sites, and mentoring independent student research projects. Greg earned his doctorate in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Vanderbilt University in 2019, where he studied the paleoecology of mammoths, mastodons, and gomphotheres in North America. In his free time, Greg enjoys hiking, kayaking, climbing, and exploring the beautiful hills and rivers of Middle Tennessee with his wife Lauren and two kids, Harvey and Gwendolyn.