TMA Physicians Recognize Exceptional Science Teachers

May 17, 2019

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) named 11 Texas science teachers winners of its 2019 Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching. 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 Dallas. 

TMA awards teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels for playing an instrumental role in creating tomorrow’s physicians by stirring student interest and excitement in science. Teachers receive cash prizes, and their schools receive cash resource grants to enhance their science program. 

Physicians also named one of the top winners the “overall winner,” which confers an additional cash award. TMA also will present awards to three second-place, three third-place, and two rookie award winners. (Rookie awards are given to science teachers with fewer than five years of teaching experience.)

Overall Winner:

TMA selected Kaneice Washington of Galena Park Elementary School in Galena Park, as the overall winner. She receives $5,000 in addition to her first-place prize.

First-Place Winners:

Ms. Washington – Galena Park Elementary School, Galena Park

Richard Embrick – David Crockett Middle School, Richmond

Andrew Brinker – Paschal High School, Fort Worth

(See winner biographies below.) TMA awarded each honoree a $6,000 cash prize; winners’ schools receive a $2,000 resource grant to enhance science classroom learning. 

Second-Place Winners:

Amy Banks – The Hockaday School, Dallas

Olivia Stalnaker – Lake Dallas Middle School, Lake Dallas

Ward Coats, PhD – Hillcrest High School, Dallas

Second-place winners each receive a $4,000 cash prize, and their schools receive a $1,000 resource grant.

Third-Place Winners:

Brenda Williams – Argyle Intermediate School, Argyle

Karen Sinor – Barton Middle School, Buda 

Deshaun Dotson – Prosper High School, Prosper

TMA gives third-place winners a $2,000 cash prize and a $1,000 resource grant for their schools.

Rookie Award Winners:

Kimberly Bruch – Kealing Middle School, Austin 

Ashley Cox – Sinton High School, Sinton 

Each rookie award winner receives a $1,500 cash prize, and her school receives a $1,000 resource grant.

Kaneice Washington – Overall Winner, and Elementary School First-Place Winner – Galena Park

Visit 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.)

“Mrs. Washington always has a smile on her face, and is eager to help out in any way she can,” said Galena Park Elementary colleagues Maria Gaspar and Emily Creel. “Her dedication is none like we’ve ever seen before.”

Richard Embrick – First-Place Middle School Winner – Richmond

Mr. 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. 

“My greatest accomplishment is making a difference in children’s lives so that they will someday change this world for the better,” said Mr. Embrick. “That is the greatest reward an educator could ever ask for.”

Andrew Brinker – First-Place High School Winner – Fort Worth

Mr. 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. 

“Mr. Brinker is an exemplary teacher because he not only works tirelessly to provide us, high school students, a solid foundation of science concepts, but more importantly, he also efficiently prepares us for college,” said Peter Vo, a former student who now studies at Dartmouth College. Mr. Brinker considers his teaching experience rewarding. “When my students leave [our] school, I am confident they are well prepared for college because they know how to think and write critically about any subject,” he said. “I look forward to many more years fostering the next generation of scientists!”

The 2019 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 at the TMA Foundation 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 nearly 53,000 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 20, 2019

Originally Published On

May 17, 2019