Excellence in Science Teaching Awards

TMA continues to receive an outstanding number of nominations and applications for this program. The 2015 Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching received over 440 nominations and 210 applications. 

Please nominate an Outstanding Science Teacher for the 2016 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching. It's never too early to start thinking about this.

TMA encourages you to nominate exceptional science teachers for the 2015-16 school year.  Nominate more than one if you feel strongly about several teachers.  Self-nominations are also accepted and encouraged.

Let’s reward teachers who exhibit a personal commitment and enthusiasm for teaching any area of science!  Three Texas science teachers will receive $5,000 each!  Their schools will receive a $2,000 award!  Three additional science departments will receive $1,000 each for our second-place winners!

Nominations for this award will be accepted through October 26, 2015. You can nominate a teacher online! The PDF version of the nomination is provided HERE for reference. 

Eligibility requirements include the following:

       * Texas state-certified, full-time public and private school science teachers with a minimum of two years’ completed classroom experience.
       * Teachers must be returning to teach in a Texas classroom during the 2016-17 school year.

Requirements of the application include:

        *  Completed application
        *  Educational History and Professional Development
        *  Letters of Support (3) - Supervisor, On-Campus Colleague, and Student or Parent
        *  Professional Essay - Professional Biography and Philosophy of Teaching
        *  Portfolio

TMA will contact all nominees via email with a link to submit an application.  If you have not received an email from TMA, it is not too late to apply.  Please nominate yourself using the link above.  This will allow you to proceed to the application.  All submissions must be received by Dec. 18, 2015. (PDF version  of application for reference.) 

Congratulations to the 2015 Winners!

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) named six Texas science teachers winners of the 2015 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching. Three first-place prizes were awarded on May 1, 2015, at TexMed, the association’s annual conference, in Austin. Three second-place awards will be presented in upcoming local ceremonies. These educators help create tomorrow’s physicians by inspiring students in the field of science.

First-Place Winners:

Patricia Kassir of The Bendwood School in Houston, Joseph Morris of All Saints’ Episcopal School in Fort Worth, and Anna Loonam of Bellaire Senior High School in Bellaireare this year’s elementary, middle, and high school first-place winners. (See winner bios below.) TMA awards each top recipient a $5,000 cash prize, and each winner’s school receives a $2,000 resource grant toward its science programs.

Second-Place Winners:

Second-place winners are Laura Wilbanks of Whiteface Elementary School in Whiteface, Carol Raymond of E.A. Young Academy in North Richland Hills, and Theresa Lawrence of Friendswood High School in Friendswood. Second-place winners’ schools each receive a $1,000 resource grant to enhance science classroom learning.

TMA believes awards like this that encourage excellent science teaching are important, as only 32 percent of Texas eighth-graders have achieved proficiency in science, according to the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 report. Through this award, TMA hopes to help improve these numbers by recognizing innovative teachers and providing them resources to continue motivating and engaging students. Eventually, TMA believes, some of these inspired students will choose medicine as a career. Some already have: Several TMA physician leaders were once taught by teachers who later won this award.

Applicants went through a two-stage evaluation process. First, finalists were determined by a 12-member team of science professionals from The University of Texas Charles A. Dana Center who volunteered their time and curriculum expertise to the program. The second stage of judging was conducted by a panel of physicians serving on the TMA Educational Scholarship, Loan, and Awards Committee. 

The TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching are supported by the TMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of TMA, thanks to an endowment established by Dr. and Mrs. Ernest C. Butler of Austin and additional gifts from physicians and their families.

2015 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Science Teacher Award Winners

 STA Winners 2015 - photo

 Pictured left to right: Ernest Butler, MD; Sarah Butler; Patricia Kassir of The Bendwood School in Houston; Joseph Morris of All Saints' Episcopal School in Fort Worth; Anna Loonam of Bellaire High School in Bellaire.   


Meet the first-place winners of the 2015 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching:

Patricia Kassir — Elementary School Winner

Mrs. Kassir teaches the gifted and talented program for medical science to grades 3-5 at The Bendwood School in Houston. She teaches because she wants to “improve the lives of others and foster understanding.” Mrs. Kassir’s career spans decades, disciplines, languages, and countries, including two years teaching English at an Islamic school in Lebanon. An immigrant to America at the age of 7, Mrs. Kassir speaks English, Spanish, French, and some Arabic, and is an expert at reaching out and connecting to students regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. Classes with Mrs. Kassir are filled with debates and interactive labs, from “CSI”-style frog “autopsies” to a mock medical school. “A teacher like Mrs. Kassir is a rarity,” says Jana Bassett, principal at The Bendwood School. “We often joke that as we all age, her students will be addressing our medical needs.” In no place is this more evident than Mrs. Kassir’s own children, who are pursuing their own paths in science, the oldest of whom is a first-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine.

Joseph Morris — Middle School Winner

Mr. Morris teaches seventh grade life science at All Saints’ Episcopal School in Fort Worth. “I want students to walk into my classroom and immediately become wide-eyed and drawn to something that sparks their curiosity,” he says. “I want questions to fill their minds like, ‘What is that? How does that work?’ and one of my favorites, ‘What is that smell?’ To which I always answer, ‘THAT… is the smell of FUN!’ ” His dedication to his students extends outside the classroom. Together with another All Saints’ teacher, Mr. Morris mentored the school’s Solar Car Club as they built a solar-powered car and drove it from Texas to California for the national Solar Car Challenge. During the two-year long project that earned the team a second-place finish, Mr. Morris’ students learned valuable skills like teamwork, problem solving, and fund raising. “He doesn’t just teach science,” says fellow All Saints’ teacher Lyle Crossley, PhD. “Joe also models and teaches character and integrity.”

Anna Loonam — High School Winner

Mrs. Loonam teaches advanced placement biology at Bellaire Senior High School in Bellaire. She is described as a “legend” within the Bellaire community. Mrs. Loonam encourages students to design their own science experiments, cultivate plants on the school’s “green roof,” and create mini-movies explaining difficult science concepts. “I firmly believe in providing students with opportunities to ‘do science,’ ” she says. Each year, she introduces students to the scientific community by taking them to the Sam Rhine Genetics Update Conference, and hosting Genetics Night, where students explain their research of a genetic disorder to peers, parents, teachers, doctors, medical students, and administrators from Baylor College of Medicine. “As a medical school teacher of a number of Mrs. Loonam’s former students, I have seen first-hand that she is a transformative and innovative teacher who created an intellectual legacy,” says Joseph Kass, MD, JD, a neurology professor at Baylor College of Medicine and father to a student in Mrs. Loonam’s class.


See what happened during TEXMED 2014



  Past Excellence in Science Teaching Award Winners    


Winner Names - School, City (when available)

 2015 First Place:
Patricia Kassir
The Bendwood School

Second Place:
Laura Wilbanks
Whiteface Elementary
First Place:
Joseph Morris
All Saint's Episcopal School
Fort Worth

Second Place:
Carol Raymond
EA Young Academy
North Richland Hills
First Place:
Anna Loonam
Bellaire High School

Second Place:
Theresa Lawrence
Friendswood High School
 2014 First Place:
Rebecca Willimas
Wilson Elementary

Second Place:
Nicole Grygars
Woodway Elementary
Fist Place:
Betty McCulloch
Clear Creek Intermediate School 
League City

Second Place:
Katie Crysup-Sikes
Seashore Middle Academy

Corpus Christi
First Place:
Janet Jones
Jesuit College Preparatory School

Second Place:
Anna Loonam
Bellaire High School
 2013 First Place:
Martha McLeod
Fulton 4-5 Learning Center

Second Place:
Liberty Heise
The Girls School
First Place:
Mary Jean Tykoski
Cooper Junior High School 

Second Place:
Dana Clark
Irma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School
First Place:
Jodie Deinhammer
Coppell High School

Second Place:
Anna Loonam
Bellaire High School
2012 Paula Bagwell
Belmar Elementary
Elizabeth Klammer
St. John's Episcopal School 
Matthew Wells
Cypress Lakes High School 

Heather Fleming
Summitt Elementary

Susan Harsh
Bridge City Middle School
Bridge City

Timothy Daponte, EdD
John H. Reagan High School


Nikki Skinner
Almeda Elementary

Dolores Garay
Redd School

George Hademenos, PhD
Richardson High School


Susana Ramirez
Reed & Mock Elementary
San Juan

Robert Boucher
Christa McAuliffe Middle School
San Antonio

Adriano Gonzalez
Oliver Wendell Holmes High School
San Antonio


Michelle Yates
Bess Race Elementary

Jill Bailer
Jane Long Middle School

Bradley Neu
Lubbock High School


Amy Hill
Lubbock Christian Schools

Nancy Schunke
Dunbar Middle School

Sarah Joy Anderson
Frenship High School


Kara Webb
Shallowater, TX


Sue Rolf and Jean Ann Keen
Dunbar Elementary

Joy Killough
Westwood High School


Debra Fleming
Aikin Elementary

Bobby Pierce
Whitney High School


Sue Rolf and Jean Ann Keen
Dunbar Elementary


Jean Durrett
Maedgen Elementary

Melita Rodriguez
United Day School

Karen Wheeler-Hall
LaPorte High School
La Porte


Bobby Pierce
Whitney High School


Sandra Geisbush
Encino Park Elementary
San Antonio

Susan Sanders
Central Junior High School

Carol Frawley
Virginia A Stacey Senior High
San Antonio


Edwinna Bernat
S.C. Red Science and Math Elementary

Cynthia Radle,
Travis Middle School

John Terry
Denison High School


Dona Hendrickson

Suzanne Warmann
Sugar Land

Sherry Martin
Americas High School
El Paso


Patricia Jones
J Houston Elementary

Terry Dickson
Grapevine Middle School

Robert Miller
La Porte High School
La Porte


David Palmer
Valley Creek Elementary

Rosemary Martin
Milliken Middle School

Suzanne Thacker
Jersey Village High School


Tanya Close
Pine forest Elementary

Cynthia Martinez-Bagwell
VW Miller Intermediate

Betsy Carpenter
Bastrop High School


Susan Pruter Swan
Little Cypress Intermediate Elementary

Deborah Linscomb
Angleton Middle School

Carolyn Schofield
Robert E Lee High School

1993 Ann McAdam Andrea Foster Kathryn Powell

Jane C. Hill
Northside Elementary

Melinda Mills
Clear Lake Intermediate School

Robert Dennison
Jersey Village High School


Jim Weber
Oliver Wendell Holmes High School
San Antonio


Michael Hoke
West Orange Middle School Orange



Contact Information

For more information about the award and application process, please contact:

Attn: Gail Schatte 
TMA Excellence in Science Teaching
401 W. 15th St.
Austin, Texas 78701-1680

(800) 880-1300, ext. 1600, or (512) 370-1600
Email: Gail Schatte 

To Donate

To make a tax-deductible donation to the TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching Program, visit the TMA Foundation. For more on the programs the foundation funds, contact Lisa Stark Walsh, TMA Foundation, at (800) 880-1300, ext. 1666, or (512) 370-1666.


Know a student who is interested in becoming a physician?  Please visit our Helpful Links.

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