May 17, 2021
In a year when teachers and their students have faced challenges that forced them to adapt to new learning environments, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) recognized five outstanding Texas science teachers with its 2021 Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching. The winners were announced Friday during TexMed, TMA’s annual conference, held virtually.
TMA awards teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels for playing an instrumental role in stirring students’ interest and excitement in science enough to potentially prompt them to consider pursuing a career in medicine. Teachers receive cash prizes, and their schools receive resource grants to enhance their science program. Since starting the awards in 1990, TMA has awarded $669,100 to 284 exemplary science teachers across Texas.
Despite the challenges of teaching over the past year and witnessing colleagues leave the profession, nearly nine in 10 Texas science teachers (86.4%) report they still love teaching, according to a TMA informal survey. More than half of respondents say they spend $300 or more of their own earnings each year to support their classrooms, to purchase lab supplies and other equipment.
TMA selects a Grand Prize winner from all education levels (elementary, junior high, and senior high school). A Distinguished Award winner is named in each education level. The Rookie Award honors a science teacher with fewer than seven years of teaching experience.
Grand Prize Winner:
TMA selected Arlevia Davis of Legacy High School in Mansfield as the Grand Prize winner. She will receive $20,000, and her school will receive a $5,000 resource grant. (Read more about Mrs. Davis below.)
Distinguished Award Winners:
Valerie Valadez – Clara Love Elementary School, Justin
Alejandra Martinez – Memorial Junior High School, Eagle Pass
Sergio Estrada – Riverside High School, El Paso
TMA awards each honoree $7,000; the winners’ schools receive a $3,000 resource grant.
Rookie Award Winner:
Crystal Deville – Grand Oaks High School, Spring
The Rookie Award winner receives $5,000, and the school receives a $2,000 resource grant.
Arlevia Davis – Grand Prize Winner – Mansfield
Mrs. Davis teaches ninth-grade biology at Legacy High School in Mansfield, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb. She believes “every single person carries a measure of greatness,” and her passion is to help her students reach their full potential by making learning “relevant and enjoyable.”
With each unit, Mrs. Davis’ classes discuss career paths associated with the topic, and the education required. She also uses a well-stocked toolkit of teaching methods to convey science lessons, including role play, dancing – and singing.
“One of my favorite teaching methods is singing a song for each unit,” Mrs. Davis wrote in her application essay. “I write songs, parodies, raps, and chants to help students engage with and remember the information we are learning.”
The technique seems effective: Former students often reach out to Mrs. Davis, recalling a favorite science song that has stuck with them long past their high school education. Parents also applaud Mrs. Davis’ creative musical approach to science, reporting they often hear their children singing the songs at home and in the car. Mrs. Davis posts her songs on YouTube to share them with other teachers and students.
One parent said Mrs. Davis has the skills parents wish for in a teacher. “She’s patient, empathetic, adaptable, extremely creative, and is always striving for ways to self-improve so she can reach every student who enters her door,” the parent said. “She wants every student she comes in contact with to be successful, and goes extra miles when necessary to help them be successful.”
Mrs. Davis values the power of education and the effect an innovative and enthusiastic educator has on students. “Helping as many students as I can drives me to be the best teacher possible,” she said. “Our children deserve the best. I will forever work to reach every student, every day, and everywhere.”
The 2021 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching are made possible by 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 more than 55,000 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
Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336
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