Meet Our Winners

2019 Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching


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First-place winners:

Kaneice Washington — Elementary School Winner

Kaneice WashingtonVisit one of Ms. Washington’s third- through fifth-grade science classes at Galena Park Elementary School, and you might see a magic show or hear a rap song about geology. An educator for nearly 15 years, Ms. Washington strives to make her science lessons exciting and engaging for her students. She writes rap songs to teach science concepts (“Block, Bounce, Bend,” about the behaviors of light energy, and “Break It, Move It, Drop,” about changes in the earth’s surface). “I am hoping my songs will stick to my students as Schoolhouse Rock stuck to me, to help them retain information and make learning the information fun,” she said. Putting on magic shows and dressing up in costumes are also part of her lesson plans, as is creative test preparation, which involved an escape room. “The students were engaged and actually had fun during test review,” she said. Ms. Washington also founded the school’s Robotics Club to show students how to apply technology and coding to solve real-world problems, and the STEM Club to research and develop clean-water filtration systems. (STEM is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which many educators group together in learning.)

Quote from essay:"I will continue to add to my bag of tricks in hopes that I can be that one teacher that inspires students to be lifelong lovers and learners of science."

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Richard Embrick — Middle School Winner

Richard EmbrickMr. Embrick teaches science, robotics, and engineering at David Crockett Middle School. He won a $20,000 national grant to create the school’s first robotics and engineering course, to improve the school’s STEM program. That led him to seek and win more than 20 grants totaling more than $75,000 to benefit his students, 80% of whom are ethnic minorities. His students have won local, state, and national competitions, including ProjectCSgirls – the nation’s largest computer science and technology competition for middle school girls – and the University of Houston Mars Rover Challenge, a mock-up Mars Rover building competition. Mr. Embrick also developed robotics and engineering courses for the entire school district, and coaches and mentors more than 15 STEM teachers at multiple campuses. In 2018, he won the national Shell Science Teaching Award from the National Science Teachers Association and Shell Oil. “Gifted science teachers like Richard Embrick are key to channeling the curiosity and developing the higher-order thinking skills of inquisitive learners while sparking their interest in science and the pursuit of STEM careers,” said Frazier Wilson, vice president of the Shell Oil Company Foundation.  

Quote from essay: "My greatest accomplishment is making a difference in children’s lives so that they will someday change this world for the better."

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Andrew Brinker — High School Winner

Andrew BrinkerMr. Brinker teaches 11th and 12th grade advance-placement (AP) biology and environmental science at Paschal High School, Fort Worth’s largest Title 1 school. Mr. Brinker prefers a hands-on approach to his lessons. His AP environmental science classes start each year with a month-long eco-column lab, in which students create terrariums out of two-liter bottles, soil, insects, and plants. In 2017, he developed the Trinity River Turtle Survey, after securing grant city permits. This ongoing lesson draws students to the river at least one weekend a month collecting data on the turtles that live there. Mr. Brinker also takes his students on field trips to the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens, the Village Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, and Texas Christian University’s Student Research Symposium, where students interact with college students and become familiar with college-level curricula. For 12 years, Mr. Brinker has sponsored the school’s Science Club and University Interscholastic League Science Team, which has captured national, state, and district championships, including the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C.” 

Quote from essay:  "My teaching philosophy is to involve students in the scientific process, having them research questions, develop hypothesis, conduct experiments and analyze data. I am passionate about providing students with authentic science experiences both in and outside the classroom."

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Second-place winners: 

Amy Banks — Elementary School Winner

Amy BanksAmy Banks teaches at The Hockaday School in Dallas.  

Quote from essay: "I am grateful each day for the twists of fate that has led me to my classroom, to the educators who have inspired me to do my best work, to my science and engineering/STEAM courses, and to my students."



Olivia Stalnaker — Middle School Winner

Olivia StalnakerOlivia Stalnaker teaches at Lake Dallas Middle School in Lake Dallas.

Quote from essay: "I am privileged and honored to be a member of a profession where I can bring science content to all students and push them forward into opportunities to excel in the future."



Ward Coats, PhD — High School Winner

Ward Coats, PhDWard Coats, PhD teaches at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas.

Quote from essay:  “My passion and desire to promote scientific research into my curriculum for students in my classes help me to identify key elements that I needed to add to my educational “tool kit” in order to elevate the rigor and comprehension that would become the norms of my teaching philosophy.”  "


Third-place winners: 

Brenda Williams — Elementary School Winner

Brenda WilliamsBrenda Williams teaches at Argyle Intermediate School in Argyle.  

Quote from essay: "My philosophy of education is based on the belief that great teachers should incorporate hands-on activities, higher level thinking, and a desire to make connections with children."




Karen Sinor — Middle School Winner

Karen SinorKaren Sinor teaches at Barton Middle School in Buda.

Quote from essay: "Although the rewards are not monetary, they are definitely present. I love having my students come back to middle school and tell me how much they loved my class."




Deshaun Dotson — High School Winner

Deshaun DotsonDeshaun Dotson teaches at Prosper High School in Prosper.

Quote from essay:  “Every day I get to be their coach, facilitator, mentor, role model, and cheerleader! So many people go their entire lives without knowing their purpose, but I know exactly why I do what I do.”



Rookie winners: 

Kimberly Bruch — Middle School Winner

Kimberly BruchKimberly Bruch teaches at Kealing Middle School in Austin.  

Quote from essay: “My goal is for all of my students to experience a favorite lesson that helps them remember science and remember me.”




Ashley Cox — High School Winner

Ashley CoxAshley Cox teaches at Sinton High School in Sinton.

Quote from essay: “One of my main priorities now as a teacher is to get to know every student on a personal level and to not let a single student fail because of extenuating home circumstances."





For a Full List of Winners Click Here


Recognition of the Program

The Senate of the State of Texas was pleased to recognize May 9, 2017, as the Texas Medical Association Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching Day. This special occasion took place in conjunction with National Teacher Appreciation Day. 




Ernest and Sarah Butler Award for Excellence in Science Teaching main page

Last Updated On

May 23, 2019