For over three decades, the Texas Medical Association’s Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching have granted cash awards to educators who cultivate a passion for science and an interest in medicine among their students.
TMA President Rick Snyder, MD, is one of those students. In 2014, his high school biology teacher, Janet Jones, was given the grand prize award by the program for her innovative teaching strategies, including a mentorship program where students could shadow Dr. Snyder and other Texas physicians.
“Ms. Jones created an experience at school that set me on the course that became my life,” he said. “To see one of my own early mentors receive recognition was excellent, and I’m thrilled these awards continue to support teachers who are vital to creating future physicians.”
Applications for the latest round of awards are open now until Jan. 8, 2024.
Funded by the TMA Foundation (TMAF) and a 1991 endowment from retired Austin otolaryngologist Ernest Butler and his wife, Sarah Butler, the program awards $62,000 to educators at the elementary, middle, and high school levels who use creative teaching methods like Ms. Jones’ to foster a love for science and encourage students who might one day become physicians.
TMA’s Board of Trustees oversees the annual award. Since 2009, TMA has collaborated with science curriculum experts at The University of Texas Charles A. Dana Center, which works to dismantle barriers in the education system, to review the applications and select winners.
Each year, the program avails teachers of the opportunity to receive cash awards, including:
A grand prize of $20,000 plus a $5,000 school resource grant.
Distinguished awards to one teacher at each of the three schooling levels (elementary, middle, and high school) of $7,000 and a $3,000 school resource grant.
A rookie award of $5,000 and a $2,000 school resource grant to a teacher with less than seven years’ experience.
Dr. Butler, who, alongside his wife, has donated more than $2 million to TMAF, says the awards are designed to reward teachers who double as formative mentors to Texas physicians. With that in mind, Dr. Butler encourages physicians to nominate teachers who guided their medical careers from a young age.
“We know how important a role teachers play in the development of young minds,” Dr. Butler said. “This award aims to acknowledge outstanding teachers who significantly contributed to the development of the doctors who treat our communities.”
All Texas full-time public and private school science teachers with at least two years' completed classroom experience are eligible. Teachers must be returning to a Texas classroom during the 2024-25 school year to be eligible and all areas of science are welcome.
For more information about the science teacher awards or application process, email Azalia Perez or call (512) 370-1300, ext. 1606. All applications must include educational history and professional development, three letters of support, a professional essay, and a portfolio.