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Central Section

Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan,
Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and southern and western Ontario

NAGT Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award Information about the Award (On the National NAGT Website) In addition to the Sectional Winner Awards, in the Central Section, State OEST winners receive:

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2016 Section OEST Award Winner

Troy J. Simpson has been teaching at Glenn Raymond School since 2001, primarily 8th grade Earth Science. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from the University of Illinois in 1994 in geography and geology. He spent one year at the Illinois State Geological Survey before attending Olivet Nazarene University to earn a Master's degree in teaching to pursue his passion of bring geoscience to students. His philosophy is to make earth science relevant and active to his students. When students can relate to the subject and make connections, the influence on learning is tremendous. His classes focus on bringing all concepts back home to Iroquois County and how geologic and earth science events impact students here. His students utilize everything from stream table modeling, to rock weathering activities, interpreting the geologic past using his extensive mineral, rock, and fossil collection, and weather forecast modeling to help make the science real to them. He takes advantage of trips with students to sites such as Turkey Run S.P., Starved Rock S.P., and Maquoketa Caves S.P. to help them relate to the concepts they learn in class. He coaches the school's Science Olympiad team, which has been very successful, including several state medalists in earth science events. He also serves as a Geo-Logic Mapping event supervisor at both the regional and state level for Science Olympiad. He also co-sponsors the school's science club in which nearly 75% of the school, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, participate in at least one activity such as canoeing, geocaching, rocketry, and HAM radio. He also is the head girls track coach at Watseka Community High School and serves on the Watseka Library Board.

Troy has served 2 terms on the Board of the Illinois Science Teachers Association and helped initiate their outstanding new teacher award. He is a member of NSTA, NESTA, and interested in reviving an Illinois geo-science teachers organization. He was named ISTA's 2007 Outstanding Teacher of Science. He has been awarded numerous grants, including MSNet, Illinois State Museum Geology Online grant, and ARRL's Education Technology Program's grant to help establish an amateur radio station at the school (W9GRS) which students use not only to make contacts around the world, but study how the Sun influences atmospheric conditions and communications. He has a passion for science and continues to be active in geologic-based activities and coursework, which he carries over to his own classroom. He is active in cave exploration/surveying and is a Life Member of the National Speleological Society along with Cave Research Foundation. Troy has presented conferences at every level, sharing the unique learning opportunities that take place in his classroom and at Glenn Raymond School. He has written several articles and is a credited member of the ISGS team that revised How to Read Illinois Topographic Maps.

A quote from Roy Chapman Andrews posted above the door as students leave Mr. Simpson's classroom epitomizes his philosophy and what he tries to instill in his students. "Always there has been an adventure just around the corner...and the world is still full of corners!" This is his charge to students to as they seek out those adventures and discoveries wherever it might be.

2015 Section OEST Award Winner

Michele Svoboda has taught 8th grade science at Mill Creek Middle School in Comstock Park, Michigan for 23 years. She graduated with a BS in Group Science in 1992 from Grand Valley State University, and in 2012 with a MA in Applied Science Education through Michigan Technological University. If you ask her to describe her philosophy of teaching, she will respond with a quote from Frederick W. Robertson. "The true aim of everyone who aspires to be a teacher should be, not to impart his own opinion, but to kindle minds." She has a passion for science and a love of science education that has prompted her to become a life-long learner.

She has been a part of summer programs such as EPIcenter and ENVISION through Purdue University, Teacher's Earth Science Institute through Michigan Technological University, and Leadership in the Biological Sciences through the University of Miami at Ohio. Each opportunity allows her to bring back one or two new ideas to incorporate in the classroom. She is part of MiQuakes, which is a K-14 educational seismograph network operated by the Michigan Earth Science Teachers Association as part of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology. Her classroom is equipped with an AS-1 Seismometer to monitor and record earthquake events. With the addition of this marvelous tool, she can now teach about earthquakes all year long and immediately after an event occurs.

Michele has received several awards and accolades for her efforts in the classroom including MSTA Middle Level Science Teacher of the Year in 2004, Paul DeHart Hurd Award for Middle Level Science Teaching and Leadership in 2005, the Vincent J. Marteka Award for Creative Science Teaching in 2007. In 2014, Michele was recognized as the MESTA Outstanding Earth Science Teacher. She presents at local, state, and national science conferences and is on the board of several organizations including MESTA, Michigan Science Olympiad, and the Advisory Board for Grand Valley Regional Math/Science Center.

2014 Section OEST Award Winner

Since 2004, Ella Bowling has been shaping the lives of young scientists as a science educator in Kentucky's public schools. She graduated with a BA in Middle Grades Science and Social Studies Education in 2003 from Morehead State University, in 2005 with a MA in Instrucational Leadership from Eastern Kentucky University, and in 2011 with a Rank 1 (30 hours beyond MA) from Morehead State University in Director of Pupil Personnel and Supervisor of Instruction certification. She has won numerous awards and accolades for her efforts in the classroom including the 2012 KY Middle School Science Teacher of the Year, 2013 Butler-Cooley National Excellence in Teaching Award, 2013 PASCO STEM Educator Award from the NSTA, 2013 University of Kentucky Teachers That Make a Difference Award, 2014 National Association of Biology Teachers Environment/Ecology Teaching Award, and the 2014 Kentucky Education Association/NEA Excellence in Teaching Award. Ella has written numerous successful grants to futher the teaching of Earth Science in her school including grants from Centiva Corporation and the Natioanl Education Association Foundation. In addition to duties as a classroom teacher, Ella also sponsors the school science club leading trips to the Great Smoky Mountains, Carter Caves, and Sea World/Disney World in Orlando, FL as well as adventures in canoeing on the Licking River, fossil hunting in the expansive road cuts in the region that are rich in Ordovician fossils, and geocaching in local nature preserves. In addition to this, her passion for geology has often led her on various adventures adding to her personal rock and fossil collection that is a remarkable asset to her classroom teaching! In her spare time, Ella enjoys working on the family farm with her husband and son where they raise beef cattle. She also is an avid explorer of the great outdoors enjoying time hiking, camping, hunting and fishing. Her passion for bowhunting turned into a skill to utilized at school where she now coaches the high school and middle school archery teams.

2013 Section OEST Award Winner

Mary Lestina is in her twelfth year of teaching at City High School in Iowa City, Iowa. She currently teaches Ecology, Physical Geology, and Weather and Climate trimester electives for juniors and seniors, senior level Physics, and freshmen level Foundations of Science III. Mary graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in 2000, majoring in All Sciences and Earth Science Education with a minor in Meteorology. She earned her Master's of Science Education Degree from the University of Iowa in 2005 with an emphasis in Earth Science. In 2010, she was awarded the Excellence in Science Teaching Award from the Iowa Academy of Sciences. As an active member of the Science Department, Mary has worked on curriculum review and standards alignment projects and was part of a team of teachers recognizing the need to extend the Earth Science offerings through Earth Science Trimester Electives. She has worked with science and special education teachers incorporating reading strategies, differentiated learning, and understanding by design strategies into her classroom giving students the best experiences possible. Mary is an active member of the National Science Teachers' Association and the Iowa Academy of Sciences (IAS), presented at several national and local science teacher conferences, and has severed as IAS Membership Committee Chair and a member of the IAS Recognition Committee. Mary has sponsored the Science Club since 2000, and in the past has sponsored the Environmental, Rocket, and Global Perspectives Clubs at City High School. Mary's teaching philosophy is to encourage all students to connect their lives to their education. Her positive attitude, high expectations of every learner, willingness to improve, and a value of every student's unique abilities makes learning more meaningful for students within her classroom.

2010 Section OEST Award Winner

De Anna Tiben is the 2010 Central Section recipient of NAGT's OEST Award.

2009 Section OEST Award Winner

Dennis ("Denny") Dougherty graduated from Western Michigan University in 1970 with a BS, majoring in Earth Science, Anthropology and Sociology. In 1976, he earned the MA in Secondary Education from Northern Michigan University. Denny's career in science education began in 1973 and spans nearly 30 years of teaching seventh and eighth grade science with the Sault Area Public Schools. He retired from teaching in 2007, but continues to be actively involved in informal science education with Lake Superior State University's Kemp Geology Museum, teacher workshops, and geology field trips. Denny's passion for science education and commitment to active, engaged learning are exemplary. His legacy lives on, as geology teaching kits he developed continue to be available in his district and through catalogs, providing teachers with activities that encourage students to become involved scientists as they perform experiments and make observations. Denny led development of the Natural Science Park in Sault Ste. Marie beginning with a small grant of $3,000 in 2005. His "contagious energy" garnered more than $40,000 in donations, and the park is compared by one of his nominators to a 2000-mile Great Lakes geology field trip. The park includes six 10-ton "rock cycle" boulders, a 16-ton block of fossiliferous Devonian limestone, and large ore specimens from the region's mines. Interpretive signs and materials incorporate Michigan's science teaching benchmarks in Earth, life and physical sciences, making the park an outdoor learning laboratory for teachers, students, and the community. Throughout his career, Dennis Dougherty has fostered a love of science in countless students, while building their critical thinking skills in a supportive environment. He has shared his expertise with innumerable colleagues, and led transformative informal science education efforts to reach the wider community.

2008 Section OEST Award Winner

Teresa Lee Huckleberry is the 2008 Central Section recipient of the NAGT's OEST Award.

2007 Section OEST Award Winner

Mr. Paul Varsho is the 2007 Central Section recipient of NAGT's OEST Award. Paul graduated in 1977 from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a BA in Secondary Education. In 1983, he received a MA in Professional Development from the University of Wisconsin - Stout. Paul is an outstanding example of dedication, knowledge, ingenuity, and professionalism in an educator. A teachers at Menomonie Middle School for 27 years, Paul embodies the philosophy that "each child should develop a love of learning and of the natural world, to question why and how things occur, and to develop the thinking skills needed to be literate, contributing citizens in modern society." He uses creative hands-on classroom activities and home and community based assignments to engage his students. Paul is known for his enthusiasm which "is backed up by a solid understanding of how to affect student learning, and the ability to reach the whole range of students from the most gifted to the most challenged." Paul has been a science Olympiad coach since 1987, going to National six time. He is currently involved in development of the Harvard-based SPARCS teaching reform assessment initiative. He has been selected to participate in a UCAR workshop of Modeling in the geosciences and a NASA Program to evaluate Centennial of Flight Engineering Design Challenges. Paul has also been involved with the Boy Scouts of America, is active in the Wisconsin Central Education Association, and is a member of the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers. His accomplishments include a Fullbright Memorial Fund Teacher Award in 2002, JASON VI Teacher Argonaut Selection in 1995, the Wisconsin State Science Teachers Regional Award for Excellence in Science Education in 1990, and receiving National Board Certification in the Area of Adolescent/Young Adulthood Science in 2002. Section Recipients

  • 2006: Mr. Aaron Spur - Price Lab School - Northern University High School, IA
  • 2004: Matthew Leone - Libertyville, IL
  • 2003: Craig Wolter

2016 State OEST Award Recipients

Minnesota - Jody Bergeson received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and a Masters of Education degree from the University of Wisconsin- River Falls. She has taught science at Twin Bluff Middle School in Red Wing, MN, for 15 years. Prior to teaching and concurrently, she is a registered nurse for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Children are naturally curious and Jody feels that her job is to guide them using meaningful, engaging and novel activities. Students share "nature notes" through words and sketches as they make connections between Earth systems and seasonal biologic phenomena. Students develop scientific questions, conduct labs, and present findings at a scientific poster fair. Student questions guide a tour of the night sky when their classroom becomes a planetarium with glow in the dark stars placed correctly for Minnesota's latitude. Collaboration with a local playwright provides creative dramatics, script writing, reading and performing experiences that emphasize science concepts.

Ohio- DeAnn O'Toole is a fourth grade science teacher from Milford, Ohio. She is passionate about outdoor education and believes that students learn best when they are knee-deep (literally!) in field work. DeAnn has attended a few archaeological digs and has created an authentic (as possible) dig for her students. They learn proper digging techniques, how to measure and record the depth of each level of soil, and how to label artifact bags properly. This year they found fire-cracked rock likely used by Native Americans for cooking! DeAnn is a founding member of the education committee at Valley View Nature Preserve, and is currently writing an outdoor curriculum for them. She was asked to represent the University of Cincinnati by speaking at the Mid-Atlantic Association for Science Teachers Regional Conference. DeAnn was named as an Educator of the Year for 2015-2016 in her school district. She has written many articles published in Scholastic's Instructor Magazine on topics including science, outdoor education, math, and technology.

2015 State OEST Award Recipients

Illinois - Joe Schoen of Geneva, IL, is an Earth and Space Science teacher and also teaches Physical Science and Geology as an adjunct instructor at Kishwaukee Community College in Malta, IL. His approach to teaching is to create a learner-centered atmosphere that uses inquiry-based projects to let students follow their own interests, facilitating critical thinking as they are challenged to find solutions. He implements this approach with "Curriculum Choice," creating several project and coursework options for students in each unit and giving them the opportunity to choose between them or create their own. Through the options provided, students of all ability levels have been focused, self-motivated, challenged, and have thrived in the learning environment he creates.

Indiana- Heather Hall has worked as a middle school, high school biology/physical science, and elementary physical education teacher as well as serving on the Board of School Trustees. She has also served as an education field advisor in post secondary education and as an education consultant for conservation organizations. She believes that students should be provided with rich, authentic learning experiences in the classroom that enable them to draw connections between the classroom and the real world. She is proud that the line is blurred between her classroom and the community! She also believes that student should be able to engage in content at the level and degree of complexity that meets their readiness level; a high degree of differentiation occurs in her classroom.

Iowa- Brandon Fritz is an Earth Science teacher and participates in his district's Leadership Team. He is passionate about personalized learning and standards based grading. He approaches teaching though inquiry and personalized learning where students customize their learning experiences through personal investigations and present their findings on topics of interest.

Ohio- Beth Holmes feels that her greatest attributes to her students are her passion for science and connecting the content to real world experiences. As a team science teacher and coordinator of 5th grade camp, she instills an excitement to view everyday activities interwoven throughout Earth's processes. Her classroom encompasses a family-like atmosphere and uses a variety of teaching and learning techniques to meet the needs of all students. Hands-on, real-life science lessons, labs that motivate students, and teaching team collaboration and cooperation are her strengths.

Wisconsin- Adam Keeton is an Earth and Space teacher who now serves as chair at the high school he teaches at. His courses are designed with a focus on making sure his students understand the processes involved in scientific discovery through asking meaningful questions and seeking the truth through experimentation. He has engaged his students in research through NASA, UW Eau Clair, Goldstone Apple Valley Research Telescope, and focusing on authentic scientific inquiry. He has been nominated by his students for the Excellence in Education award and UWEC's Distinguished Service Award.

2014 State OEST Award Recipients

Illinois - In Keni Rienk's 5 years of teaching science at Woodstock North High School in Woodstock, IL, she feels as though her greatest gift to her students has been an awakening to their connection to Earth. In teaching environmental and earth science, she instills an understanding of the mechanisms, processes and fragility of our planet. As the co-advisor of the Green Garden Club, she also utilizes her school's sustainable, organic garden as both a place of science and personal connection. Historically her students have come into her classes with a giant question mark on their future, and by the end of the year she is writing letters of recommendations for them for their admittance into programs such as Sustainability, Environmental Geology, Hydrology and Sustainable Energy Engineering, to name a few.

Indiana - Martha Hoyt Goings, LPG, a thirteen-year teacher at Huntington North High School, Huntington, Indiana, teaches Geology, Astronomy, AP Environmental Science, and Meteorology as dual credit courses in collaboration with Indiana University Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW). In the summer of 2012, Martha studied dinosaur trackways, associated organisms, and sedimentology in an IPFW/National Geographic sponsored research project in the Paluxy River outside Glen Rose, Texas. She is continuing this on-going project by generating curriculum for United States and international students. Martha has presented at the HASTI convention in Indiana, in her school district, and for other organizations. She continues to attend HASTI, NSTA, and other science/education meetings to gain ideas. Martha is an active participant on numerous policy, curriculum, and technology committees in her school, district and at the state level. She is a member of many state and national education and science organizations. Her students gain a realistic and diverse learning experience, as she encourages them to incorporate science into their daily lives.

Ohio - Paul Genzman teaches in the community of South Bass Island in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. His approach to teaching is based on the belief that all students are natural scientists and the right program can instill a sense of wonder in the world that will result in lifelong learners. This past school year saw the beginning of "The Island Cave Project" which embodies this philosophy. For years he has taken students caving as part of an "Earth Processes" lesson; this year's class took the experience to another level. His class was able to combine LiDAR data and global positioning with local historical articles to find many more caves. Once found, they collected data inside the caves using basic measurement skills and trigonometry. This data was then entered into a CAD program to design 3-dimensional maps of these caves. During this process, the class discovered many glass and porcelain artifacts dating as far back as the middle of the 19th century.

Wisconsin - Beth Spear has taught science at Central High School, Salem, WI for 10 years. Prior to teaching, she worked as an environmental consultant. Beth believes it is important to keep her knowledge of science topics and practices up to date so that her lessons are relevant and meaningful. She has been involved in programs that allowed her to bring unique experiences back to her students. Some of these great programs that encourage and foster inquiry and innovation in the classroom include: Research Experience for Teachers (RET) at UWM , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Teacher at Sea volunteer, Global Environmental Teaching South Africa - University of Wisconsin Steven's Point, National Radio Astronomy Observatory Pulsar Workshop in Green Bank, WV, Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico, Synchrotron Radiation Center in Stoughton, WI., San Diego Zoo Conservation Research Workshop Beth's participation in these programs have provided the inspiration to create interesting, relevant, inquiry-based activities for her students.

2010 State OEST Award Recipients

Indiana - Mark Ruckert

Minnesota- Kate Rosok has taught Earth Science to students in urban and suburban schools in grades 8-12. Currently at Thomas Edison High School with Minneapolis Public Schools, she teaches integrated science and physical science. She is a Knowles Science Teaching Fellow, a graduate of the University of St Thomas, and of Colorado College. Before becoming a professional teacher she taught English in China, climbed in the mountains of Colorado, and worked in industry as a geologist. Currently, Kate focuses her teaching on being responsive to students. Students' experience in her classroom is a mix of discussion, labs or activities, and formative assessments; she is exploring standards-based grading and continually working towards a positive learning environment. Outside of the science classroom, she coaches students working to complete requirements for graduation and coaches volleyball. In the summers, look for her at a teacher workshop improving her science content knowledge or her teaching skills. She wants adults to welcome each teenager as an individual, and to nurture them in their journey to joining us in the broader community. Most of all, she wants you to consider what would you want for your own child, your family member, or for your future neighbor.

2009 State OEST Award Recipients

Illinois - Charles Simer teaches science at Woodlawn Grade School (K-8) in Woodlawn, Illinois. He is known for "getting students hooked on science." In teaching science, Charles incorporates reading, writing, art and other subjects. Cooperating with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S.G.S., he has built a teaching collection of local, state and regional rocks and other science materials. The science classroom, even though it has no running water or lab stations, has become a favorite destination for students, who compare it to a Science Center and request visits outside of class times. Charles structures curriculum and assessment so that any student from the school's diverse student body can learn and succeed, often exceeding expectations. Veteran teachers have re-evaluated their own teaching based on observations of Charles' classroom. In his classes, students are motivated not only to ask questions in class, but learn to ask questions of their community and of society.

2007 State OEST Award Recipients

Iowa - Ms. Amanda Schiller of Donnellson, IA, is highly respected by her colleagues, students, and community. Amanda is described as a "supportive and encouraging" teacher who "takes lessons to the next level, involving hands-on excellence in her classroom, resulting in an open-ended research based opportunity for students to formulate their own scientific ideas." She has taught earth science for four years and is known for her adaptability and cooperative spirit. Amanda is also known for her ability to motivate student learning. "She hooks them into learning about earth science and then feeds these concepts into their immense curiosity about science." She contributes to the community through a number of volunteer activities and has participated in a number of professional development opportunities.

Ohio - Mrs. Chantelle M. Rose of St. Paris, OH, has been teaching for eleven years and is very active in professional development, curriculum development, and bringing "real science" to life for her students. Chantelle is considered "a dedicated, student-centered, creative teacher" by her colleagues, students, and community. She encourages and empowers her students to participate in scientific research through her professional development contacts. Chantelle is a creative and innovative teacher who works with all students to achieve in science. She created a science course, "Science in Ohio," to motivate students to understand and appreciate the science in their state. Chantelle's professional services is exemplary and she is known for bringing science from her classroom into the community and beyond.

State Recipients

  • 2006: Kirk Enzenauer - Coon Rapids, MN
  • 2004: Philip Lacey - East Liverpool, Ohio; Ken Fiscus - Albert Lea, Minnesota

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