2010 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award Winners

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Outstanding Earth Science Teacher (OEST) awards are given for "exceptional contributions to the stimulation of interest in the Earth Sciences at the pre-college level." Any teacher or other K-12 educator who covers a significant amount of earth science content with their students is eligible. Ten national finalists are selected, one from each NAGT regional section. Some sections also recognize state winners. Individuals may submit an application themselves or nominate a colleague for the award.

Download the awards booklet (Acrobat (PDF) 4.3MB Oct27 10). (Note that the PDF is formatted for booklet printing, so the pages aren't in numerical order.)


Central Section

De Anna Tibben

Eastern Section

Heather H. McArdle, who teaches at Mahopac High School in Mahopac, New York, has 14 years of teaching experience. She currently teaches Regents Earth science, physical geology, and A.P. environmental science in grades 10-12. She holds a B.S. in geology and a B.S. in secondary science education from the State University of New York at Oneonta, and an M.S. in secondary science education with a concentration in geology from Syracuse University. Her numerous publications include meteorology, geology, and astronomy teaching manuals published by Flinn Scientific and articles in peer reviewed journals, including "Traveling Through the Curriculum: A Method of Holistic Teaching" in the Science Education Review, Ace-ing Stratigraphy in The Science Teacher, and "A Framework for Nomenclature of Glacially Derived Sediments" in the Journal of Geoscience Education. Heather also served as a test item writer for the Regents Exam for the New York State Education Department. She is a member of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and the Geological Society of America. She uses multiple intelligences philosophy in designing her lessons and makes holistic connections to her lessons. She has a website which she constantly revises to engage students beyond the classroom and uses a competitive homework assignment which requires students to link geosciences content to any headline in a 24 hour news cycle.

Heather writes: "I challenge each of my students. They should be allowed to feel safe enough to stretch themselves, make mistakes, and try again – without two harsh a consequence.... I have yet to find the perfect way to individually challenge every student in every exercise, but I have found that when students feel 'safe', and know their responsibility in challenging themselves, they are more willing to 'stretch;' themselves a little."

Heather, who currently serves as a mentor teacher to first-year science teachers, was also selected as the state winner for New York.

Far Western Section

Nick Crooker, an Earth science teacher at Modesto High School in Modesto, California, is the Far Western Section OEST award winner for 2010. Nick came out of a background in biology and returned to school for an education in Earth science so he could develop a well-rounded program at his school. Nick has been a member of the NAGT for a number of years, attending conferences and field trips in the Far Western Section. He helped prepare the guidebook for the FWS Lava Beds National Monument conference in 2007.

Nick describes several important traits in a good teacher: Steadfastness helps in the teaching profession when the political environment tends to erode quality support in the classroom. Patience with each student helps him make them the best they can be. Flexibility enables him to handle unexpected problems and teaching situations in the classroom. Humor helps keep the instructor sane and the students interested in the subject matter. All of this is under the umbrella of a broad science background in the physical, environmental, and biological sciences. He is able to draw upon years of experience and incorporate this in classroom instruction.

Nick's room has rock displays and pictures coordinating with the State Standards. With tight budgets, field trips are an impossibility. Using document cameras and LCD projectors, he shares with his students exciting places of geological interest via the internet and from his own personal travels.

Currently he participates with the A.V.I.D. program at Modesto High School. This program takes selected students who will be the first in their family to go on to a college education and engages them in a rigorous academic program throughout their four years in high school. He has also taught the natural and physical sciences for the local Adult School for the past 23 years.

Midcontinent Section

No award in 2010

New England Section

Jennifer Judkins teaches Earth and other sciences at Wilmington Middle School, Wilmington, Massachusetts. Her classroom is an active learning environment where students use real data to solve problems and she also emphasizes relationships to students' lives. Her supervisor notes that "Students are having fun, collecting evidence and recording their findings; they don't even realize that they are learning...." 

Jennifer has developed an excellent class web site. "In an effort increase home / school communication and to assist middle school students that struggle with organizational skills, I created a comprehensive class website [where] students and parents can read about what we're doing in class, review various extra credit opportunities, find recommended links for the content area...and download electronic copies of all worksheets and class notes...." She invites you to visit her site at www.tinyurl.com/judkinsscience. Jennifer has taught courses and presented workshops on using technology as a time-saving, curriculum enhancing tool for the classroom. She serves as the District Technology Trainer for Wilmington Public Schools and is the Team Leader of her grade 8 teacher-colleagues. 

Prior to teaching, Jennifer spent over 10 years working in industry, including NASA. Her "varied work experience translates readily into the classroom...[through] first-hand knowledge of exciting research and technology." Students come to know that science is a possible career option and not "just a required subject in school."

Her community involvement includes being a volunteer case reviewer for children in foster care, ensuring that each child is receiving the necessary services and support. "This work has helped me to realize that some students face unknown and unseen difficulties at home. I no longer take for granted or assume each child in my class has the benefit of a supportive family. I now see my role as a teacher / role model in a new light. As a teacher, I have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of my students."

North Central Section

No award in 2010

Pacific Northwest Section

Chris Hedeen holds a masters in science in geology from University of Oregon and a masters of arts degree in teaching from Lewis and Clark College. He has taught for over 10 years and instructs Earth science and honors geology at Oregon City High School.

Chris brings a breadth of geologic experience to his classroom. Before launching a career in teaching, he studied landslide hazards and remediation for the US Forest Service, and his graduate research focused on invertebrate paleontology, stratigraphy, and regional tectonics of the Oregon Coast Range. Most notably, Chris has served as a Master Teacher for the NSF-funded Teachers on the Leading Edge (TOTLE), an Earth science teacher professional development program highlighting Pacific Northwest regional plate tectonics. In this role Chris has mentored other K-12 geoscience teachers and has also helped develop classroom kits that bring experimental setups into TOTLE participant's classrooms. These kits were built under Chris's supervision at his high school and are used throughout Pacific Northwest classrooms. They include manipulatives middle and high school teachers can use to study regional geologic hazards and earthquake engineering. Additionally, he has engineered innovative middle and high school curriculum using real-time EarthScope GPS data to study geologic hazards and tectonics of the Cascadia region which was presented at the 2009 Geological Society of America Meeting.

Chris also coordinates an honors geology curriculum with Clackamas Community College and consults on Earth science curriculum development and teacher professional development projects by Biological Sciences Curriculum Studies and Oregon Public Broadcasting. He clearly demonstrates the qualities that make him a master teacher in Earth sciences. He has knowledge, experience, a love for teaching and interacting with students, as well as true dedication to the professional development of teachers.

Southeastern Section

Bryan E. Freeman is the 2010 National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Outstanding Earth Science Teacher from Tennessee, and the entire southeastern region of the U.S. He teaches geology, earth science, and astronomy/planetary geology for grades 9-12 at Clinton High School in Anderson County. Bryan is a 1996 graduate of Tennessee Technological University with a bachelor's degree in geology and a 2010 Master's degree in Instructional Leadership. Bryan began his teaching career in the geology department at Tennessee Tech by teaching a variety of introductory geology labs. He was instrumental in building Clinton High School's program into one of the few strong earth science focused programs in Tennessee. In addition to this OEST award, Bryan has was selected as the 2003 selected as Clinton High School teacher of the year and Anderson County Schools teacher of the year as well as one of two individuals from Tennessee selected as a 2004 Radio Shack National Teacher of the Year for his use of technology in his curriculum. Bryan has twice been named by the senior classes as the "funniest teacher" as well as being nominated to Who's Who Among Amercia's Teachers multiple times based upon student nominations. Bryan serves as a P-16 Partner Representative for the TTU Millard Oakley STEM Center and member of the CHS National Honor Society. Bryan Freeman has been a participant of TEST programs at various times in his career, including the 1997 GeoTrek Yellowstone trip. In keeping with a strong Tennessee tradition regarding the OEST award, Bryan was also selected as the southeast regional OEST by the selection committee at NAGT. With Bryan's regional win, Tennessee had been home to nine of the past 10 regional winners since 2000. Bryan explains his motivating factor for teaching was a "desire to share my love of geology with students. When I went through the school system, Earth Science was taken by all students in the eighth grade and never mentioned again. While students were sculpted and molded in their high school years, they were not exposed to the earth sciences- only biology, chemistry and physics. I entered college and decided to major in secondary education and seek certification in biology. One class that I had to take to follow that path was physical geology. Following a few geology classes, I dumped my education major and sought a degree in geology. I found a world of wonder and a science that effortlessly incorporated all those other sciences that I had been led to believe were 'fancier'."

Southwest Section

Laura Lukes is a teacher who approaches her Earth Science classrooms with an infectious enthusiasm, challenging curriculum, and dynamic environment. She uses an inquiry-approach to learning, and encourages students to reflect on their learning; enhance their writing skills, and develop skills that are often neglected in science classrooms. She raises the level of expectation for each student, and her students perform at a level beyond what they thought they were capable.

One illustration of her approach to teaching is her Earthquake unit. She begins with an activity where students need to determine Mercalli values for different regions; students negotiate meaning with one another; and then a full class discussion emerges. From that discussion, students begin to determine what hazards exist from earthquakes, which leads into a brief lecture burst; a video clip further illustrates these ideas. Students then move on to a reading where they determine what happened during the earthquake and start to put the different pieces from what they have been learning together into one; lastly, they write a brief description consolidating these concepts. All of this work is done in student notebooks, which allow her to collect them and gain insight into each individual student's learning and can provide specific feedback as she determines how students are progressing and putting ideas together.

Laura also serves as a leader at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. She has helped her fellow faculty, she has developed a college level Geology class for which her students earn dual credit (High School and College), and she also spends her evenings teaching at the local community college. In addition to serving in a local leadership capacity, she has been selected to spend the upcoming year as a National Science Foundation Einstein Fellow in the Office of Polar Programs.

Texas Section

No award in 2010



Kim Ouderkirk, born in Upstate New York, grew up with an appreciation for the natural world. However, she entered Bryn Mawr College as an English major. It soon became apparent that geology was a better fit with emphasis on nature and because it allowed her to spend time outdoors. Her senior thesis was on igneous rocks in southeast Alaska and she continued to work in this part of the world while in graduate school at Princeton University. These experiences, plus her participation on other research projects, are the source of the "near death" stories that continue to amuse her students. In graduate school, Kim discovered her perfect career—teaching science. She has taught all ages from 1 year olds to college students. Her preferred teaching is in middle and high school. She taught science for 2 years at the Hun School of Princeton before moving to Alabama. She is currently enjoying her 25th year teaching at Tuscaloosa Academy in Alabama where she shares her love of science with her seventh grade earth science students, and her high school chemistry and physics students.


David Gillam teaches 6th grade and is highly regarded as a master Earth science teacher in the Anchorage School District. Recently, as a part of the NSF-funded Experiential Discoveries Geoscience Education workshop, Dave guided two 6th graders through a student-designed, GIS, field-based science fair project. This involved being trained in ArcGIS software and using it to analyze data collected from Juneau Icefield glaciers as well as undertaking independent Earth science projects during a two-week summer workshop. Returning to Juneau the following spring, they their project at an EDGE workshop with student and teacher colleagues and also at the Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair, where Dave also served as a judge. Along with leading three of his own summer workshops for Alaska teachers, Dave is highly regarded both in the Anchorage School District (Alaska's largest by population) and statewide for his excellence in teaching Earth science, other sciences and mathematics. Dave has also worked as an adjunct professor at the University Alaska, Anchorage and at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, where he has taught education courses in science for the elementary classroom.


Dr. Minerva (Mickey) Santerre presently teaches science and math to gifted students at Frank C. Martin International K-8 Center in Miami, Florida. She holds numerous degrees culminating in a Doctoral Degree in Science Education from Curtin University in Australia. She directs her school's chapter of Odyssey of the Mind, leads the Science Summit, and has been awarded numerous education grants. Dr. Santerre's zeal for life centers around her passion as a science educator. From her 30 years of teaching, Dr. Santerre has amassed a library of different teaching styles and techniques aimed to encourage her students to utilize their critical thinking skills, discover new areas of science, and make the learning of science fun. She is considered an expert in her field so that she is now instructing teachers on how to teach science to students.


Michael McClain is a 21 year U.S. Navy Meteorologist/Oceanographer, veteran of the Vietnam and Desert Storm wars. Graduated with an Associate of Science degree from DeKalb College (now Georgia Perimeter College) 1997, and Bachelor Degree in Science Education from Georgia State University "Cum laude" 2000. He has taught in Atlanta Public Schools, Newton County and Yeager Middle School in Douglas County for the last four plus years. An active member of the Georgia Science Teacher Association, Georgia Mineral Society, Tellus Museum, and Naval Weather Association. Michael and his wife of 14 years, Lizabeth, live in Powder Springs, GA. with their dogs Jasper and Ruby and cat Malachite. He loves sharing his passion of Earth science with his students and plans on teaching future scientist for some time to come.


De Anna Tibben


Mark Ruckert 


Chris Campbell teaches 7th and 8th grade math and sciences at Simsboro High School in Simsboro, Louisiana. Since 2006, Chris has completed well over 150 hours of professional development specifically related to Earth science, from natural resources to fossils and weather. "I feel that the more I know and the more excited I am about the tropics then the more that will excite my own students," says Chris. "I NEVER want my students to feel the way I did 20 years ago, bored to tears in that desk."

To that end Chris has focused on hands-on inquiry-based bessons, including lab activities, field work, and field trips to help excite students ("and me") about course topics. "Students need to have an emotional connection to something before they learn it. I taught them Earth systems science concepts by doing sphere impact studies from hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and meteorite impacts." He also uses technology as much as possible, a topic he has pressed on at conferences of the Louisiana Science Teachers Association. Looking to stretch the learning experience for students to outside of school, he started a Science Olympiad team in 2007, taking care to involve parents in supporting these and other enrichment opportunities. His efforts have been noticed and rewarded. In addition to being awarded a NSTA/Vernier Technology Award and a Toyota Tapestry Grant, Chris was named Louisiana Science Teachers Association Outstanding Middle School Teacher in 2009 and Region 8 Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2010.


Mona Becker has six and a half years of teaching experience and currently teaches 8th grade Earth science at Sykesville Middle School in Sykesville, Maryland. She has a B.S. in geology from Millersville University, an M.S. in geology from Virginia Polytechnic and State University, and a Ph.D. in geology from State University of New York at Stony Brook. She was nominated by Bradley Yohe, Supervisor of Science for Carroll County Public Schools. She has received several teaching awards including the Excellence in Teaching Award for Earth and Space Science Department at State University of New York at Stony Brook and more recently the Geoclub Award for Best Teacher for the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee. She has served at the editor for the Northeast Section of Association for Women Geoscientists. "[Dr. Becker] is a very caring instructor who always has time for her students and parents."


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.


Brittany Brewer has 8 years of teaching experience, and is currently teaching 5th and 6th grade Math and Science at Coast Episcopal School, Long Beach, MS. Brittany has many innovative techniques to enhance students' learning. She incorporates a 5-day field trip to the Appalachian Trail to the school's existing science curriculum. Students learn about how and when the mountains were formed, history of the trails and mountain range, plant life, nature, hiking safety, animal habitats, etc. The class takes an eleven mile hike to Len Foote Inn and then a shorter hike to Springer Mountain. The students also learn how Len Foote Inn is designed to be environmentally friendly by doing research and taking a tour of the facility. Brittany's students participate in several hands-on science activities and experiments to reinforce learning and make learning exciting. Several of her students have received awards in Science Fairs and Academic Competitions.

New Jersey

Peter Dorofy was nominated by John Moore, who is currently serving as an Einstein Fellow. Peter has 10 years of teaching experience and is currently teaching Earth science for grades 9-12 using geospatial technology at Burlington County Institute of Technology in Medford. He has an AA in liberal arts and sciences from Burlington County College and a B.S. degree in physics from The College of New Jersey. Peter is a member of Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honorary and Phi Theta Kappa Honorary. He is a STARLAB planetary instructor and developed Terrain Viewer, which allows students to take a virtual tour of landscapes generated from 8-bit height maps based on Digital Elevation Models. His nominator writes "[He] believes that a number of students come into [his] classroom having low self esteem, feeling inadequate, and unsure of themselves. [His] goal as a teacher is to reverse that thought process."

New York

Heather McArdle - See Eastern Section Award Winner

North Carolina

Joshua David Roberts brings an energy to the classroom that radiates through his students like seismic waves through the earth. He has a genuine relationship with his students that has them coming back to visit well after they have graduated. Josh received his BS in Geology and MA in Teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is now in his sixth year of teaching Earth/Environmental Science at Northern High School in Durham, N.C. He teaches all levels of high school from those with learning disabilities to advanced placement and recently completed work for National Board Teacher Certification. He has presented talks at National Science Teachers Association conferences on both state and national levels, as well as at the UNC Department of Geological Sciences. Josh also serves as the teacher advisor to several science-related student clubs at his high school, including the Scientifica Club, ScienceDays, and Envirothon.


Mike Rockow holds a Ph.D. in igneous and metamorphic petrology from Washington University and teaches 8th grade Earth science. He has been instrumental in developing inquiry-based curriculum at Leslie Middle School in Salem, Oregon. He works with the Oregon State Board of Education on science standards, has served as a reviewer for NSTA, and participates in a variety of workshops and professional development opportunities.

Mike has also created a mentor program for 8th grade science students. Each year 30-40 students are teamed with scientists who help the students with the design and logistics of a science research project. Since the inception of this project, the participation of 8th graders from Mike's school in Oregon's state science fair has doubled, as have the number of awards won. This research program was awarded the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's Middle School Science Research Program of the year in 2007.


Karen Aucker holds a B.S. in secondary education Earth and space science from Lock Haven University and has done some additional graduate work at Penn State, Bloomsburg University, and SUNY Brockport. With an amazing 37 years of experience she currently teaches Earth and space science at Jersey Shore Area Senior High School, in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Association of Supervisor and Curriculum Development, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, National Earth Science Teachers Association, and National Education Association. She organizes field experiences for students which included: Penn's Cave, Penn State Mineral Museum, Gettysburg, Williamsburg, Boston, Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon, and the Poconos. She was nominated by Nancy L. Steinbacher, the reading specialist at her school. "Karen believes that all students can learn and they have the potential to reach for whatever goal they set if willing to spend the time and work."

South Carolina

Jeanne Hartley has taught Earth science at Lexington Middle School in Lexington, South Carolina, for over 30 years and has achieved National Board certification. She was practicing inquiry-based instruction in her classroom long before the education establishment recognized its value, and has served as a mentor to other teachers, both in her district and in summer courses for teachers at the University of South Carolina. 

Jeanne is very quick to see when and why an activity is not working for some students. She is able to place herself on the student's level, understand what the student can do, and see what the student needs in order to get a grasp on the subject at hand. She has worked for many years with another teacher to plan, organize, and lead a trip to the Grand Canyon for 8th graders, and she organizes several events each year to help fund this trip.


Bryan E. Freeman - SeeSoutheastern Section Award Winner


Kareen Borders has been teaching for over 16 years. She was recently awarded the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Educator Achievement Award for comprehensive use of inquiry science. Kareen has been in the forefront of using cutting-edge technologies to enhance pedagogy in her classroom, including the use of a personal response system and smart boards. For the past two years her Gig Harbor, Washington, students have been engaging in discourse with a variety of geoscientists as a part of Pennsylvania State FLEXE: From Local to Extreme Environments, a project in which students communicate with scientists in the field, conduct investigations, compare results with other schools, and analyze their own geoscience environment. Kareen also won the NASA National Lesson Plan competition from Penn State, University of Washington, and NASA for writing her interactive, immersive lesson, "Hurricane!" She sets up field research experiences for other teachers and manages a NASA Explorer School partnership for her school.

West Virginia

Andrea Anderson has 38 wonderful years of experience teaching astronomy, physical science, chemistry, and Earth science. She currently teaches at Weir High School in Weirton, West Virginia. She has a B.A. in secondary science education from West Liberty State College and an M.A. from West Virginia University in communication studies. Andrea had multiple nominations, first coming to people's attention by attending every RockCamp program that the WV Geologic Survey held. She is GLOBE certified and has attended numerous professional development activities including NRAO Green Bank for which she served as a mentor. She served as the chair of Northern Regional Science Consortium, was Weir High Teacher of the Year AND West Virginia Teacher of the Year. "Andrea has an amazing quiet strength about her. She is present at most WV professional development science workshops and conducts some of her own! She operates one of the few planetariums in the state of WV!"