TMA named six Texas science teachers as winners of the 2016 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching. TMA awarded three first-place prizes at TexMed 2016 in Dallas. Three second-place awards will be presented in upcoming local ceremonies.
TMA recognizes elementary, middle school, and high school teachers for the awards. These educators help create tomorrow's physicians by inspiring students in the field of science.
Lauren Paquette of Hobby Elementary School in Houston, Nancy Brown of Charles Baxter Junior High School in Everman, and Kenric Davies of Sherman High School in Sherman are this year's elementary, middle, and high school first-place winners. 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.
Mrs. Paquette teaches kindergarten through fifth grade science lab at Hobby Elementary School in Houston. "I want students to know that science is in everything," she said. Mrs. Paquette strives to include hands-on activities wherever possible to show her students how science can be engaging ― and even fun. She encourages her students to think critically and learn from their mistakes. "In my lab, failure is not an option, and although we may struggle, we should never give up." Her colleagues say Mrs. Paquette constantly looks for ways to do more for Hobby Elementary and its students. She won several science grants for the school, and through her leadership, Hobby Elementary was chosen for the National Wildlife Foundation's Eco-Campus Partnership Program. The program teams an American school with a Taiwanese school to collaborate on an eco-friendly project.
Mrs. Brown teaches eighth grade pre-advanced placement (AP) science at Charles Baxter Junior High School in Everman. Labeled as learning disabled and diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in her childhood, Mrs. Brown knows firsthand the need for caring, motivated teachers. "I knew from the depths of my soul that I needed to teach — and be the teacher that I never had," she said. Hands-on learning plays a central role in Mrs. Brown's lessons. She demonstrates Newton's law of inertia by balancing a spinning tennis ball and wire contraption on her head, then letting her students take turns with the device themselves. When she teaches topography, her students create detailed 3-D topographic maps. When she teaches electricity and circuitry, her students build and solder their own electronic device. "I love to challenge my students and do things that make them feel like they are really doing something amazing. They are active participants."
Mr. Davies teaches 11th- and 12th-grade AP physics and astronomy at Sherman High School in Sherman. "The look in a student's eyes when they realize how something works or get the answers to questions like 'why is the sky blue?' or 'how do magnets work?' gives me a sense of purpose, like I am directly participating in the construction of our future," he said. Mr. Davies cultivates student interest and understanding of science and emphasizes community involvement. He sponsors the school's Engineering Team and the Astronomy Club and puts together a Family Science Night every year, where students demonstrate science in action to their families and community. "I strive to show my students that they will not stop learning when they leave high school; they will continue to learn all throughout their lives, and this is something that should excite them."
Second-place winners are Marisol Rodriguez of Achziger Elementary School in Mesquite, Chelsea Atwell of Austin Academy for Excellence in Garland, and Finny Philip of Berkner High School in Richardson. Second-place winners' schools each receive a $1,000 resource grant to enhance science classroom learning.
TMA physicians believe this award, and others like it, encourage the outstanding science teaching techniques that inspire Texas students to succeed. Only 36 percent of Texas eighth-graders have achieved proficiency in science, according to the National Science Foundation's Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 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 doctors know, some of these inspired students will choose medicine as a career. Several TMA physician leaders were taught by past recipients of this science teaching award.
"The very best teachers are relentlessly devoted to their students' learning and development. These special educators are who we honor each year with the TMA Science Teacher Award," said Deborah A. Fuller, MD, president of the TMA Foundation. "Teachers like these help ensure that students appreciate the role of science in understanding our world and how to use scientific information to make daily decisions."
Science professionals from The University of Texas Charles A. Dana Center chose finalists from all the applicants, and physicians from TMA's Educational Scholarship, Loan, and Awards Committee selected the winners.
The 2016 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching are made possible with a grant from the TMA Foundation, supported through an endowment generously established by Dr. and Mrs. Ernest C. Butler and gifts from physicians and their families.
Action, May 16, 2016