This manual summarizes procedures that have proved successful at the state and sectional level and introduces several new goals and objectives for the OEST program that have been encouraged by the NAGT Executive Committee. Planning at all levels is necessary to achieve optimal results, but even the best plan cannot succeed without a concerted mobilization of effort. NAGT expects each regional Section to name an OEST winner each year and encourages sections to develop local programs in each of their designated states. The OEST Committee at the national level of NAGT coordinates the logistical arrangements of running the program and provides certain designated awards for state and sectional OEST winners.
It is strongly recommended that sections and/or states supplement these awards whenever possible. Any second place or runner-up awards are the responsibility of the local section and/or state. In NAGT Sections running an OEST program in individual states, each state winner must automatically become eligible to compete for the Sectional OEST awards during that same year. If a Section wishes to do so, state winners from the previous years may be considered eligible as well. The Section President is ultimately responsible for insuring that the Sectional OEST program is functioning effectively, although the actual running of the program may be delegated to other section officers and/or committees under Sectional By-Laws or personal prerogative. Once the selection process is complete, the appropriate Sectional representative should informthe National OEST Committee Chair and the NAGT executive office of all teachers who are to receive awards at either the state or Sectional level.
Administration of the OEST Program
At the National Level
The OEST Program is administered by a constitutionally mandated standing committee consisting of one member from each regional NAGT Section plus two or three members-at-large (if one of the two members-at-large is selected as Chair, a third member-at-large will be appointed).
The at-large members are recommended by the Committee on Committees for two-year terms and confirmed by the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee appoints the Chair. Sectional Representatives are appointed by the Section in accordance with local procedures and policies. Their terms are specified by their Section. The Committee is responsible for publicizing the OEST program both nationally and at the Sectional level, and insuring that proper procedures are followed in the selection of all OEST winners. The Committee Chair is responsible for preparation of awards. Most committee business is transacted through e-mail and telephone, although occasionally meetings are held at GSA conventions.
At the Sectional Level
The NAGT Constitution states "Nominations will be made to the President of each section who will arrange for the Section Selection Committee." In many sections, local customs or official by-laws mandate that a person other than the Section President run the OEST program for the Section.
Several of the sections have separate OEST representatives for each state within their section. These representatives will report to the section representative, who will advise and coordinate the award process for the section.
Whomever is given the responsibility of running the OEST program for the Section automatically becomes the Sectional Representative to the national OEST Committee. It is the responsibility of each Section to inform the OEST Committee Chair and the NAGT Executive Office concerning any changes in the status of the Section representative. All nominations must be submitted online at the OEST Nomination Form page.
Nominations will be forwarded (by the NAGT executive office) to the OEST Sectional Representative of the appropriate Section within as short a time as practical.
If the Section routinely names OEST state winners, it is advisable to name an OEST Coordinator for each state in the Section and have these people serve collectively as the Section OEST Coordinating Committee. It is not advisable, however, to have the Section OEST Coordinating Committee also serve as the Section Selection Committee because of possible bias towards their state winner. If the Section does not name state winners, then the Section OEST Coordinating Committee and the Section Selection Committee can consist of the same people. In either case, the Section OEST Chair is responsible for convening the Selection Committee and for the submission of the required forms and other information to the national OEST Chair.
The search is the most critical part of the OEST program. It must be thorough, it must be timely, and it should generate excitement. An effective search can be accomplished through personal correspondence, advertisements in relevant newsletters, and appropriate individual contact. It will not happen by itself. The following recommendations are intended for use at the state level, but most of these approaches are also useful for Sectional searches in NAGT Sections lacking separate state awards.
Prior to mailing letters to solicit nominations, a general announcement of the program may prove helpful. The National OEST Committee is in charge of publicity at the national level and will attempt to make the OEST program announcement available in as many national science education periodicals and newsletters as possible.
Most state Science Teacher Associations have a newsletter that is mailed to all member teachers on a regular basis. Many of these state organizations are affiliated with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and a list of officers (including the newsletter editor) can usually be obtained by calling NSTA's national office. Some states even have local Earth Science Teachers Organizations (which may or may not be affiliated with NSTA). These are excellent vehicles through which to publicize the OEST competition.
State Departments of Education, Science-Math Centers and/or Networks, Science Coordinators Groups, or other statewide organizations may also have periodic newsletters or other means of communication with teachers. Use whatever method is best for the state(s) in which the search is made. The URL for the OEST program on the NAGT Site, http://nagt.org/nagt/awards/oest.html, should be included in each advertisement so that potential nominators can easily find the official nominating form.
A Solicitation Letter
Individuals most likely to produce nominations should be targeted. The list may vary from state to state. You may consider district superintendents, principals, science coordinators, regional science centers, departments of science education at colleges and universities, etc. Confer with officials at the State Department of Education for advice on whom to approach and how that person can best be reached. Mailing lists or labels may be available from the State Departments of Education or other state organizations.
Once the target group of nominators is determined, a persuasive letter should be composed. The number of letters sent out is usually driven by economics, but must be balanced against the expected number of responses. The contents of the solicitation letter should tout the award as a distinguished honor, bringing credit not only to the individual, but also to the school system represented by the nominee. Some states or Sections will limit the number of nominees from a single school district in any given year (generally to one nominee per district), but this is not an OEST requirement. This type of decision, if warranted, should be made by the state or Sectional leadership.
The solicitation letter must:
- outline the program clearly;
- state the advantages of participation;
- emphasize what action is required to participate;
- underscore the response deadline;
- specifically mention NAGT as the sponsor; and
- include the nomination website.
Sample Solicitation Letter (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 85kB Aug18 16)
All nominators are required to follow the format specified on the official nomination form. Failure to use the official nomination form will lead to the submission of a wide variety of packages that may be difficult to compare. All nominators must fill out the official nomination form found here. Note that the narrative portion of the application is limited to one single-spaced typewritten page for each of the seven elements mentioned on the form.
Additional documentation to support the narrative should be encouraged, but quality should be stressed over quantity. It is a good policy to recommend that such documentation be kept to no more than five items. Supporting documents may take various forms, including, but not limited to: letters from parents, students and or/professional organizations, products of special efforts by the nominee, documents illustrating leadership roles on a local, state, regional or national level, etc.
Occasionally, incomplete nominations are received. As a bare minimum requirement, the single page official nomination form is acceptable as a nomination, and may be considered during the selection process, but such a submission is rarely competitive with files that have substantiating documentation. There is an implicit understanding that a teacher should teach at least 50% earth science to be considered for an "earth science award." This is a very nebulous criterion, and selection committees are free to interpret this requirement very broadly to accommodate unusual circumstances.
All nominations must be submitted via the OEST website and will then be forwarded to the appropriate section. In some NAGT sections, a Sectional Committee will be formed to consider all applications from states within that Section.
In such a case, state winners should not be named unless there has truly been a state competition. The practice of soliciting nominations for a Sectional OEST award should not, by itself, automatically result in state winners being selected. If teachers are nominated for a state award, knowing ahead of time that the state winners will compete for Sectional honors, then there should be both state and sectional winners named (no matter whether there is one regional selection panel or several state selection panels). However, if the call for nominations states the competition is for a Sectional Award, then no state winners should be named.
A broad-based but small committee should be formed to evaluate and rank the nominations within a state (or a Sectional panel can be convened to rank nominations by state). Once state winners are selected, the winners' files are forward to a Sectional Committee. The committee then selects the Sectional OEST winner. In Sections using one Sectional panel for the entire review process, it is very important to insure broad geographic representation on the panel to dispel any appearance of bias. Some Sections permit the same individual to win both the state and sectional awards simultaneously. Other sections promote the runner-up in a state when the state winner is named Sectional winner. Either policy is acceptable.
The most effective selection committees generally contain between four and six members. Some suggested perspectives to be included on the committee (state or Sectional) include:
- an NAGT State (or Section) Coordinator, Chair;
- a geology Professor;
- a Science Education Professor;
- a Principal;
- an industry representative (such as state mining association);
- an Earth Science Teacher (perhaps a former OEST winner ); and
- a State Department of Education representative.
A new committee can be appointed each year, but a staggered system to utilize members for more than one year is desirable because of the continuity it provides.
The committee can be designated as the State NAGT Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Awards Committee and charged not only with selecting the state winner(s) but also with planning the total program at the state level. Likewise, a Sectional committee may coordinate the Sectional program in addition to selecting the Sectional winner(s). Some Sections have found it useful to provide their judges with a form listing the seven criteria and a scoring rubric. The following rubric has worked well for North Carolina. (see below) When awardees are notified of their selection, it is extremely important that the nominator, the Principal of the school, and the district superintendent receive copies of the letter (see below). The committee should also be charged with sending press releases to hometown papers and publicizing the award in whatever way brings the most recognition to the awardees (see below).
Many teachers deserve recognition. It is often a difficult task to select a single winner. In meeting the program objective of recognizing excellence, it is recommended that honors be distributed as widely as possible. Occasionally, states or Sections will have too few nominees. There will be years when a state or a Section, despite an active publicity campaign, may get only one or two nominations submitted. If the teacher is deemed worthy, there is no problem giving an award to a lone nominee. However, if the nomination packet does not demonstrate high quality, it is better to give no award that year than to give an award to a teacher who has not exhibited standards consistent with the OEST Program.
A primary key to the success of the OEST program is the quality of the awards to top nominees. Certainly the prestige of being recognized by a national organization such as NAGT is significant and brings satisfaction to finalists in the OEST competition. However, for the program to be most effective, the awards should also be rewards. For example, a state OEST winner receiving a plaque through the mail to commemorate the honor might feel little exuberance over the occasion, and nominees would be difficult to obtain in subsequent years. A statewide competition should produce a greater impact if the objectives of the program are to be met and the award is to be recognized as a prestigious.
The successful awards program should embody three elements:
- Tangible and high-quality rewards
- Public presentation on an appropriate occasion
- Honor to as many nominees as possible
Tangible and High-Quality Rewards
Each person honored by the competition should receive an appropriate award for his or her level of achievement. The award should produce a feeling of pride in the recipient. It should also reflect favorably upon NAGT by forcefully demonstrating our interest in and encouragement of excellence in earth science teaching at the K-12 level. Several levels of awards are built into the OEST Program. Some awards are funded by NAGT and other organizations at the national level, while others are funded locally. NAGT reserves the right to limit the total number of plaques and memberships given to any one Section.
In most NAGT Sections, State Science Teachers Association Meetings have proven to be the most prestigious settings for presenting awards because winners are honored in front of their peers. On occasion, regional meetings of the National Science Teachers Association, the Geological Society of America, or other organizations whose meetings the winner is likely to attend are preferable. Regardless of the venue, however, a representative of NAGT should be present at the ceremony to present the award. Usually this requires contacting the persons in charge well in advance of the meeting.
State winners in particular should be honored at the State Science Teacher meetings whenever possible. In this way the individual, the school system and the school may all share in the pride. Many of these organizations publish newsletters with statewide distribution. By contacting the appropriate person, it should be possible to get a photograph and write-up of the OEST winner(s) included in a subsequent newsletter edition.
Honor to Many
An award for one earth science teacher from a large, geographically diverse Section will not produce nearly the impact as recognizing a winner from each state within the Section. A single award for an entire state will not produce nearly the impact of recognizing many teachers in that state. Selecting a first, second, and third place winner, or a first place winner plus honorable mention winners, significantly broadens the program at the state level. Likewise, selecting several finalists at the Sectional level increases the effectiveness of the program. Such an approach is highly recommended.
Funding an Awards Program
A significant awards program is essential for a successful OEST program. The coordinator of a state OEST program probably will find that selling the program is easier and more enjoyable than expected. At the Sectional level, larger industries, especially mining associations and environmental firms, offer the greatest likelihood for success in fund-raising. Many organizations have educational committees and nearly all mineral industries recognize the value of earth science programs, and thus are likely to lend their support.
Financial solicitations are far more effective when made personally. The OEST State Coordinator (or Sectional Coordinator) in consultation with colleagues and the state geologist, can compile a list of organizations and industries considered to be likely financial supporters. Determine the best person to contact in each organization. Whenever possible, someone who knows the individual personally should set up an appointment and accompany the coordinator when the "pitch" for support is made. A must on each visit is to leave behind a written rationale for the program, the total amount of financial support required to accomplish the goals outlined (awards, publicity, etc) and perhaps a suggestion for the level of support desired from the organization visited.