TMA Recognizes Exceptional Science Teachers

May 2, 2022

Science Teacher awards sized

As teachers and their students have had to adapt during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) recognized three Texas science teachers who successfully passed the test with its 2022 Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching. The winners were announced today during TexMed, TMA’s annual conference, held this year in Houston.

TMA awards elementary, middle, and high school teachers for playing an instrumental role in stirring students’ interest and excitement in science to potentially inspire them to pursue a career in medicine. TMA gives cash prizes to winning teachers and resource grants to their schools to enhance their science programs. Physician judges named an overall grand prize winner and two distinguished award winners this year.

Grand Prize Winner  

TMA selected Valerie Valadez-Sims of Clara Love Elementary School in Justin as the Grand Prize winner. She will receive $20,000, and her school will receive a $5,000 resource grant. (Read more about Mrs. Valadez-Sims below.)

Distinguished Award Winners  

Jessica Robicheaux – Post Elementary School, Jersey Village

Sabrina Ewald – Centennial High School, Frisco

TMA awards each honoree $7,000; the winners’ schools receive a $3,000 resource grant.

Valerie Valadez-Sims  Grand Prize Winner – Justin

Mrs. Valadez-Sims, this year’s grand prize honoree, was a distinguished award winner in TMA’s 2021 science teaching awards. She teaches fifth-grade biology at Clara Love Elementary School in Justin, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb. She believes science teachers can empower students to change the world through real-life experiences. “We have a responsibility to provide students with hands-on experiences that promote critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving,” said Mrs. Valadez-Sims.

In her essay, Mrs. Valadez-Sims elaborated: “We are very active during class; I love to incorporate kinesthetic learning into my daily lessons where students are always participating in hands-on activities, while discussing with a partner or in small groups.”

The eight-year teacher’s dedication and expertise in science education stood out from the start. Lisa Crosslin, Clara Love Elementary School principal, said “Ms. Val” – as her students call her – established herself as a knowledgeable, engaging science teacher during her first year at Clara Love in 2019-20. In just her second year, she was recruited to serve as a district science curriculum writer among other leadership positions.

One parent, in a letter of recommendation, said Mrs. Valadez-Sims went beyond teaching with her daughter. “She befriended, nurtured, uplifted, and instilled confidence in a way I have never seen from an educator,” the parent said. “Mrs. Valadez-Sims is an amazing science educator and, even more, an extraordinary advocate for all her students.”

Mrs. Valadez-Sims said she is committed to ensuring every student receives a high-quality education that promotes scientific inquiry and encourages and empowers them. “What I hope to achieve every day is to create a safe container where children are allowed to be courageous risk-takers, to elevate their voices on topics they are passionate about, and to believe they are world-changers,” she said.

Since starting the awards in 1990, TMA has awarded more than $714,100 to 290 exemplary science teachers across Texas. TMA selects a grand prize winner from among all education levels (elementary, middle, and high school), and a distinguished award winner is named at each level if merited.

The 2022 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.

Despite the challenges of teaching during the past two years and witnessing colleagues leave the profession, eight in 10 Texas science teachers (83.3%) report they still love teaching, according to a TMA informal survey. More than half of respondents say they spend $500 or more of their own earnings each year to support their classrooms, and to purchase lab supplies and other equipment.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 56,000 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:

Swathi Narayanan (512) 370-1382; cell: (408) 987-1318; email:

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Last Updated On

May 04, 2022

Originally Published On

May 02, 2022

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