Grand Prize Winner: Joseph Oleniczak:
Joseph Oleniczak, a biotechnology teacher at Austin Independent School District’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy, has made a lasting impact on his students' education. With 15 years of experience, he develops relevant curricula, merging theory and practical applications for critical thinking and scientific inquiry.
By learning molecular biology lab techniques, his students are well-prepared for entry-level lab work. Known for mentorship and dedication, Mr. Oleniczak goes above and beyond to support his students. He also brings new teaching approaches through National Science Foundation grants.
Mr. Oleniczak's commitment to empowering students and shaping biotechnology education makes him an exceptional educator. His passion and dedication enrich the lives of many, equipping them for success in the scientific community.
Distinguished Award Winners Lacey Baxley
Lacey Baxley: Lacey Baxley is a dynamic fifth-grade science teacher at Nocona Elementary School. With enthusiasm and creativity, she introduces young students to science through hands-on experiments, fostering a growth mindset and lifelong learning. One memorable experiment involved inflating balloons with baking soda and vinegar for a spooky Halloween effect. Mrs. Baxley's ability to make learning engaging captivates her students.
Outside the classroom, she plans trips, organizes fundraisers, and supports school programs. Her dedication shines through the Wounded Warrior Project Fundraiser, where she involved students in social media outreach, goal-setting, and sharing funds raised.
Mrs. Baxley's passion for science education, imaginative teaching, and commitment to student growth make her an exceptional educator. She inspires curiosity, encourages active participation, and prepares young learners to become responsible citizens. 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.
Maria Martinez, an exemplary educator at Harmony School of Excellence in Laredo, receives the prestigious Rookie Award for her remarkable contributions to STEM education. Teaching biology and Project Lead The Way biomedical science, she empowers students through interactive lessons, collaborative projects, competitions, and shadowing experiences, showcasing the relevance of STEM in their lives.
Mrs. Martinez adapts her methods to cater to the diverse needs of her low socio-economic-status students, fostering inclusivity and ensuring every student thrives. One student gratefully acknowledges her as a key inspiration and mentor in her achievements. Mrs. Martinez's dedication, inspiration, and commitment to inclusivity make her an exceptional educator. She shapes the aspirations and accomplishments of future STEM innovators, sparking a passion for STEM education in her students.
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