Texas Physicians Award Outstanding Science Teachers

May 18, 2018

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) named eleven Texas science teachers winners of its 2018 Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching. TMA recognizes elementary, middle, and high school teachers for helping to create tomorrow’s physicians by inspiring students in the field of science. Teachers receive cash prizes and their schools receive cash resource grants to enhance their science program.

TMA honored three first-place winners, one each selected from elementary, middle, and high school entrants, today at TexMed, the association’s annual conference, in San Antonio.Physicians surprised one of the top winners as the “overall winner,” which carries with it an additional cash award. Three second and two third-place awards, and three rookie awards (given to science teachers with fewer than five years of teaching experience) will be presented in upcoming hometown ceremonies.

Overall Winner: 
TMA selected the overall winner from the first-place honorees. The recipient of this top honor is Norma Burke of Early College High School in Houston. She receives $5,000 in addition to her first-place winner prize.

First-Place Winners: 
A’ndrea Fisher – Freiheit Elementary School, New Braunfels  
Julie Frey – Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth 
Mrs. Burke – Early College High School, Houston 
(See winner biographies below.) TMA awarded eachhonoree a $6,000 cash prize, plus her school receives a $2,000 resource grant to enhance science classroom learning.

Second-Place Winners: 
Christi Fuchs – Hunt Elementary, Cuero  
Megan Ngo – W.P. McLean Middle School,Fort Worth  
Anne Marie Wakefield – Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston 
Second-place winners each receive a $4,000 cash prize and their schools receive a $1,000 resource grant. 

Third-Place Winners: 
Kelly Suarez – Thompson Elementary,Haslet  
Usha Devathosh – North Houston Early College High School, Houston.  
TMA gives each third-place winner a $2,000 cash prize and a $1,000 resource grant for her school. 

Rookie Award Winners: 
Hannah Cotten – Hill Elementary, Austin 
Julia Julian – Lamar Middle School, Austin  
JoAnna Rogowski – IDEA College Prep Mission, Mission.  
Each rookie award winner receives a $1,500 cash prize and her school receives a $1,000 resource grant. 

Norma Burke Overall Winner, and High School First-Place Winner – Houston 
Mrs. Burke teaches Pre-AP biology at Early College High School in Houston. “I believe that all students should have an opportunity to explore and feel wonder about what they are doing,” she says. “My passion as a teacher is having students succeed not only in my classroom but in life.” Mrs. Burke goes the extra mile, helping students relate to science so they not only understand the concepts but develop the knowledge and confidence to explain them. Colleagues praise her success at engaging students from all walks of life in science. “Her ability to reach students from disadvantaged backgrounds and give them opportunities to learn in proactive, differentiated methods” is one of Mrs. Burke’s true strengths, says Early College High School principal Jeff Hutchinson. “She has so many positive attributes that make her a top-flight teacher.” 

A’ndrea Fisher — First-Place Elementary School Winner – New Braunfels 
Mrs. Fisher teaches first-grade science at Freiheit Elementary School in New Braunfels. She encourages her students get “messy” and explore the world around them. “The messiness of learning really opens up the minds of my students,” Mrs. Fisher says. She is not afraid to bring silliness into her classroom, dressing up in costumes on days her class conducts hands-on experiments. “Kids want to have fun, and they learn so much through play,” she says. Mrs. Fisher’s infectious enthusiasm for learning spreads to her students. “A’ndrea’s first grade classroom is where students develop a love for science,” says Sara Elley, Campus Instructional Coach for Freiheit Elementary. “It is a common occurrence to see her former students flagging her down in the halls because of the significant impact she has had on their education.” 

Julie Frey — First-Place Middle School Winner – Fort Worth 
Mrs. Frey teaches sixth grade life science at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth. She structures her curriculum so her students feel like true scientists in the field. They keep observational journals and have opportunities to create their own experiments. “I am ardent in providing an environment where students practice critical thinking, inquiry, and problem-solving skills,” she says. “If I can make a connection between my classroom and the outside world, I have created a lifelong learner.” Mrs. Frey is a special kind of teacher — one who inspires a love for science, say Neta and Corey Mandel, parents of two graduates of Mrs. Frey’s class. “Through her presentations and interactive labs, [students] come away not just with knowledge of protists, fungi, and even yeast, but an actual emotional attachment. To us, that is what makes an outstanding teacher.”  

The 2018 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching are made possible with a grant from the Texas Medical Association Foundation, which is supported through an endowment generously established by Dr. and Mrs. Ernest C. Butler and gifts from physicians and their families.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 51,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. TMA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the association and raises funds to support the population health, science and quality-of-care priority initiatives of TMA and the family of medicine.

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Contact:  Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org

Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org

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Last Updated On

May 17, 2018