Meet Our Winners

309077 2020 STA Web Banner


2020 Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching

First-place winners:

Clara Herrera — Elementary School Winner

Clara HerreraMs. Herrera teaches fifth grade science at Clayton Elementary School in Austin. She has dedicated herself to enriching and challenging her students in the endeavors of science. Her students conduct weekly experiments and record all their data in journals, which result in hundreds of notes with concepts that are being covered in the classroom. She also utilizes innovative techniques to test her students’ knowledge. Songs, cheers, and dance moves are some of the techniques she uses along with technology. She goes to great lengths to ensure that her students are grasping concepts and are having fun while doing so. Her ventures to numerous conventions and contributions to various scientific projects have aided her into becoming a guide to her students and has resulted in her STAAR science scores ranking among the top five in AISD.

Quote from essay:"It just takes one person. In the back of my mind, I always think, maybe that person is me."

Application Materials


Cynthia Hopkins — Middle School Winner

Cynthia HopkinsDr. Hopkins teaches seventh and eighth grade science at Kaffie Middle School in Corpus Christi. She has displayed enthusiastic approaches to her students. Concepts are introduced to students placed in groups and are taught in various methods such as coding, visual displays, and collaborative interaction. Her development of the school science fair program has led her and her students to fruitful results. The development of the science fair enabled her students to advance and win their division at the Texas State Science Fair. Those students were the first state winners in the schools and districts history.  

Quote from essay: "I hope that my love of learning is so contagious that each of my students will develop into passionate, life-long learners. I desire to spur their academic efforts not just in my class but in all their courses for the rest of their lives."

Application Materials


Adam Unlu — Overall and High School Winner

Adam UnluMr. Unlu teaches eleventh and twelfth grade physics at Harmony School of Excellence in Laredo. Inside of the classroom, you can find Mr. Unlu’s students covering new scientific vocabulary and a demonstration. He highlights the vocabulary words during demonstrations so they can have a better understanding of the newly introduced topic. One innovative method he uses is Project-Base Learning. This method of instruction addresses core content through rigorous, relevant, hands-on learning. Outside of the classroom, Adam founded an Engineering Club who meet weekly on Saturdays. He obtained 3D printers and other materials through numerous grants he received, which resulted in his club building a solar powered car. In 2018, student drivers drove the solar powered car from Fort Worth, Texas to Palmdale, California. The club has also modified small battery-operated cars so that young children who cannot walk, but who are also too young to operate their own wheelchairs, could become mobile. In addition to the cars for young children, Adam and his students have created devices to assist paralyzed pets. Through an understanding of physics and new 3D printing technologies, his students have helped several local pet owners to bring mobility back into their disabled pets' lives."  

Quote from essay: "I believe that lifelong learning never stops and it is basic in the achievement of our general public. I can't show my kids to move forward without doing so myself."

Application Materials


Second-place winners: 

Mark Rogers — Elementary School Winner

Mark RogersMark Rogers teaches at Austin Achieve Elementary in Austin.  

Quote from essay: "They see how hard I work to make class engaging for them, and they return the favor with their effort and persistence."




Cynthia Duke — Middle School Winner

Cynthia DukeCynthia Duke teaches at Manvel Junior High in Manvel.

Quote from essay: "Fostering the growth mindset and facilitating the idea that it is okay to struggle while working your way through a learning adventure is not only okay, but it is normal."




Jamie Holbrook — High School Winner

Jamie HolbrookJamie Holbrook teaches at Saint Mary's Hall in San Antonio.

Quote from essay:  “We can take risks, fail, and learn from the failure without the defined “success” that we thought should happen. The success that I want my students to attain is to develop the character trait of grit, the tenacity to overcome and learn from obstacles."



Rookie winners: 

Lisa Lim — Elementary School Winner

Lisa LimLisa Lim teaches at Anne Sullivan Elementary in Sugar Land.  

Quote from essay: “My reward for all my teaching efforts is that I am making a difference in the lives of all the children I encounter through positivity and sharing my love of science.”




Erin Wise — Middle School Winner

Erin WiseErin Wise teaches at West Memorial Junior High in Katy.  

Quote from essay: “I want my students to find success in my classroom, but more importantly, I want them to be successful in life. If that success leads them to a career in science, I would be overjoyed, however, simply helping students to find a passion for learning and exploring the world is just as sweet.”



Sadaf Syed — High School Winner

Sadaf SyedSadaf Syed teaches at Lovejoy High School in Lucas.

Quote from essay: “An example of what I consider excellence in education is when students struggling start to become more engaged and feel confident in their ability to grasp difficult concepts."





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 26, 2020