Grand Prize Winner: Valerie Valadez-Sims
Valerie Valadez-Sims teaches fifth- and sixth-grade science at Clara Love Elementary in Justin, north of Fort Worth. She integrates literacy, technology, and hands-on experiences to make science come alive for her students, something she says links the promises of education with her students’ lived experiences. In addition, Mrs. Valadez-Sims asks relatable questions to help her students connect to the content, excite them about an upcoming lesson or topic, and encourage active participation.
A unit about sharks shows Mrs. Valdez-Sims’ passion and comprehensive teaching style. In a classroom transformed into an ocean with teachers dressed as sharks, students learn about animal habitats and adaptations, calculate shark speed and travel distance, and discover social and environmental threats to shark populations.
Vision: “What I hope to achieve every day in my classroom is to create a safe container where children are allowed to be courageous risk-takers, to elevate their voices on topics they are passionate about, and to believe they are world-changers.”
View a winning lesson plan: “One of the best portfolios I have seen. This is what we’re looking for!” said a judge at The University of Texas at Austin Charles A. Dana Center who reviewed Mrs. Valadez-Sims' application.
Distinguished Award Winners
Jessica Robicheaux – Elementary School Winner
Jessica Robicheaux teaches fifth-grade science at Post Elementary in Jersey Village near Houston. She says she stimulates excitement among her students by making each day an unexpected surprise. One day, Ms. Robicheaux might bring an albino ball python to help her class explore life science or she may come dressed as an astronaut to take a “field trip” into space. These hands-on experiences, Ms. Robicheaux says, are a powerful tool to help her students better connect to the content. She also uses Ozobots, programmable coding robots, to enhance the science curriculum.
Vision: “I will always strive to be THAT teacher who sparks curiosity and brings wonder into their [her students’] world. It takes deliberate planning, effort, and grit to go the extra mile for students, but the kids truly deserve it.”
See how Ms. Robicheaux engages her students
Sabrina Ewald – High School Winner
Sabrina Ewald teaches AP environmental science, and earth and space science at Centennial High School in Prosper, within the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. One of her favorite units explores natural resources, mining, and energy production. Her students experience “aha moments” as they calculate their personal energy use and the amount of fossil fuel and renewable energy resources required to provide for their energy needs and those of their city, country, and world. After more than 20 years of teaching, Mrs. Ewald continues to evolve her teaching methods by learning new technologies, techniques, and programs to enhance student engagement.
Vision: “Science is an active subject. Learning is best acquired by touching, drawing, building, or designing. No other subject has the power to maximize student engagement.”
Explore Mrs. Ewald's teaching methods