Initial Publication Date: December 12, 2013

2012 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.


Central Section

No award in 2012

Eastern Section

Dr. Edward Cohen has seven years of teaching experience with a BS in Elementary and Middle School Science Certification from the University of Delaware and recently completed his Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning from Rutgers University. He currently teaches at Quibbletown Middle School in Piscataway, N.J. His achievements are numerous but to highlight a few, he was a 2011 Fulbright Scholar to Japan, a 2010 Geraldine Dodge Foundation Award Recipient for Earth Watch Expedition, a 2010 AGU Teacher Leadership Training Award Winner, 2009 New Jersey Governor's Teacher of the Year, 2007 School of Rock member- JOIDES Resolution, and 2005 Independent Research Award from the University of Delaware. He has published a chapter in a book regarding the teaching of greenhouse effect using inquiry-based computer simulations, presented papers at the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST), National Association of Science Teachers (NSTA), American Geophysical Union (AGU) and International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching (IHPST) conferences, as well as workshops at the National Science Teachers Association annual conference. He has created a variety of curricula for his program including his work with the Marine Activities Research Education (MARE). His nominator writes: "His teaching philosophy is to take every child that walks into his room from their personal starting point, to the highest possible peak of their learning. He does this in a fun, laid-back, non-judgmental atmosphere, in a work and creativity intensive environment.ยด A student writes "We are not allowed to forget and are always revisiting and reusing the big ideas to see connections".

Far Western Section

No award in 2012

Midcontinent Section

No award in 2012

New England Section

Ray Pavlik is the New England Section's Outstanding Earth Science Teacher for 2012. Ray is a fifteen year veteran teacher with degrees from Bates College and Boston College, on the faculty of Concord Carlisle High School, Concord, MA. His nominator notes that Mr. Pavlik is "one of the most dynamic and influential members of the school who has developed a reputation as a strong classroom teacher and a caring, reflective professional."

Field trip experiences are one of the things that Ray is famous for. He takes students on day excursions to explore local geology and also on a weekend trip to the coast of Maine where students investigate and map the scenic coastal rocky shoreline. Mapping was done on their iPads. Twenty one of Ray's high schoolers paired with fifteen college students as part of Boston University Prof. Ethan Baxter's NSF-funded "RoBOT" program (Rocks Beneath Our Toes). Together they investigated geology via mineralogy study and local field trips. Ray has also taken his students on week-long field trips to Iceland and Hawaii.

In his classes Ray's energy and enthusiasm is contagious, notes his nominator. He uses lots of explanatory techniques, keeping in touch with student comprehension as the class progresses. In class, students are encouraged to appreciate their different learning styles. Ray has been a leader at introducing technology in to the classroom. His advanced students use mobile GPS units, GIS and most recently iPads to conduct their mapping. As his nominator states: "He gives students the message that the work they do is important, that each student is capable of achieving the learning goals, and he will not give up on them. He promotes confidence and perseverance...." 

It should also be noted that, among other school responsibilities, Ray coaches the boys' soccer at Concord-Carlisle High Shcool. His teams have won the state championship 3 times in the past 6 years. 

North Central Section

Paul Fechtmeister has been teaching in the public schools here in the United States for 11 years. Prior to that Paul taught English in Taiwan, in addition to years spent teaching skiing, karate and calculus.

His philosophy is that anyone can learn and if the topic is presented with enough enthusiasm and attention to detail that almost anything is interesting and teachable.

Paul has received numerous teaching honors but the ones that he are most proud of are: Arch Coal Golden Apple Award, Canon Educators Award for Rocketry and being the coach for the NASA HUNCH program, the TARC program and for the 10 time state champion engineering teams from East High School.

Paul holds a bachelors degrees in Physics and Teaching from the University of Wyoming. He is a certified ski instructor and is also a certified high power rocketry enthusiast.

In the last 3 years Paul has been involved with two project based learning programs that he is particularly proud of. The first is the NASA High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program. Working with this program Paul and a team of student volunteers created an experiment to study the diffusion of gases in micro-gravity in order to better understand the movement of smells and hazardous odors in the environment of space and the space station. The other project was the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) which is sponsored by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). In this project students are to design, develop, fly and compete in a competition with schools from all across the United States. This year Paul's team qualified as one of the top one hundred schools in the nation and traveled to Washington D.C. to compete.

Pacific Northwest Section

Marie Carver
Executive director of the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School. I teach math, general science, gardening and conservation biology to 6th, 7th and 8th graders. This is my 11th year as a teacher and I have been so lucky to have spent my entire teaching career at this small charter school. Our goal is to help students learn about the environment and then get out and make their own discoveries. We put together about 45 field trips every year. These range from small group field research trips to large group restoration projects.

I have a Masters in the Art of teaching from Willamette University and a BS in Environmental journalism from Humboldt State University.

Southeastern Section

Kevin McMahon teaches 6th grade earth science at Renfroe Middle School in Decatur, Georgia. His goal is to inspire kids to become life-long learners. He has assisted with climate research on the Greenland ice sheet (summer of 2006 and the summer of 2011) and has been able to share this research with his students. Students had the opportunity to experience what it was like to be a researcher in a remote region by going to Kevin's virtual base camp and reading his journals, looking at photos and videos, and asking questions.

Kevin strives to help students learn how to solve problems through problem-based learning (PBL) cases. As the name implies, a PBL case starts with an engaging problem and the students try to solve it. Students first identify the facts, and then make some hypotheses. They also list "learning issues" (things that they don't know but can look up in print or online). Some of their questions lead to experiments. At the end of the year, his students realize that any problem (whether it is science-related or not) can be tackled using this problem-based learning approach. 

Kevin has been teaching for 12 years. He received his undergraduate degree from Duke University and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Emory University. Kevin was the City Schools of Decatur Teacher of the Year in 2008 and a TREC/PolarTREC teacher in 2006 and 2011.

Southwestern Section

No award in 2012

Texas Section

Julie Archer is currently in her 6th year as a middle school science teacher. She recently completed a Master's of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction through the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX where her passion for creating quality earth science curriculum for middle school science teachers was fostered and encouraged. Her approach to teaching is to lead by example. For her, this means that my students have seen not only her successes but her failures and they see that she is a lifelong learner. In addition to her formal education, she has been selected as a participant for programs such as Boeing's Space Academy for Educators at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Texas A&M's G-Camp for Educators. She says, "Each time I participate in these opportunities I become more excited about sharing knowledge with my students. I hope that my passion for science and education is contagious to my students and they develop a love for both of those things as well."



Jennifer Bacus received a BS in General Science from Eastern Michigan University and a MEd in Math from the University of Alaska Southeast. She has taught science and math for eight years at both the middle and high school levels. She also received training in GIS at the University of Alaska Southeast and helped work on science lesson plans with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Science Teacher Education Program. She received the 2012 Lower Kuskokwim SD Science Coach of year. Also this year she was able to coordinate a K-12 school wide science fair. She has taught after school programs in robotics (FLL and FTC) and science fair. She believes in bringing in programs like the Mars Student Imagining Project (MSIP). She embraces technology such as Skype to bring a local science professor's research into my classroom. She integrates subjects whenever possible such as math and art. She tries to bring the local environment into the classroom and whenever possible we go outside and explore. Her teaching philosophy is to allow students to explore the world around them through a variety of materials and media. She says, "My hope for all my students is for them to be science literate so they can make informed decisions and be productive citizens by becoming part of the solution."


Kevin McMahon - See Southeastern Section Award Winner


Angie Plaisance. This year is my 13th year teaching science. I have a Masters (Reading Specialist) +30 degree obtained from Nicholls State University. I also completed several PBS Teacherline courses for which I have obtained college credit through Adams State College. I also completed a "Realtime Ocean" course through College at Brockport. 
I have been awarded the QSM (Quality Science and Math) grant several times and was voted Golden Meadow Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2008. 
I incorporate hands-on researched based strategies in the classroom which fosters a student-centered learning environment by using such activities such as project based learning, creating visuals, and integrating technology. Students are encouraged to explore, question, work cooperatively, and think "outside the box." I try to motivate my students to go above and beyond what is merely satisfactory. I set high expectations for all students.

I participated in the JASON Train the Trainer convention in Virginia, the "Bayou Side Water Quality Testing" program through BTNEP, and the BP/AGI Earth Science Middle School Teacher Leadership Academy in Texas, as well as presented at the NSTA conference in New Orleans. I am dedicated to helping students become the best prepared citizens they can be.


Willy Herrera, with 7 years of experience, teaches science at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts in Baltimore, Md. He holds a B.S. Ed. from the Colegio de la Milagrosa and University of the Philippines Open University; a MA in Leadership in Teaching from the College of Notre Dame in Maryland; and is finishing a second MA at Johns Hopkins University. He was 2007 Teacher of the Year at Harlem Park Middle School, Baltimore. Participation in numerous professional development workshops involving astronomy include: the Honeywell Space Camp Academy, Black Holes workshop at Pennsylvania State University, and Astrobiology workshop in California as a demonstration teacher. He is currently the science department chair and serves as a mentor teacher. His students design rocket launches with the Maryland Science Center and Goddard Space Center and participate in "Voyages Through Time" (SETI), "Ask a Physicist" and "Starry Night" curricula in his classroom. His nominator writes "he believes that he has the power to change the path if not the destiny of every student with the help of the state, the curriculum and the parents. Mr. Herrera always hopes for the good future and for the good life that every student deserves. "

New Jersey

Dr. Edward Cohen - See Eastern Section Award Winner

New York

Jody Suprenant holds a BS in Biology from the University at Albany, an MS Ed in Curriculum and instruction from Albany Medical College, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Education from SUNY Plattsburgh. In her 11 years of experience she has developed multiple earth science themed electives for her school, Fort Edward UFSD in Fort Edwards, New York. She is a STANYS member, possesses a School District Leader Certificates, served as NASA Aquarius Mission Teacher Consultant for Concept Maps, a NASA/SUNY Buffalo S.T.U.D.I.E.S. Teacher Consultant, and Upward Bound Instructor for Adirondack Community College. Her students with processing delays use audio-visuals which she places on her website and blogs which they download to iPods to view narrated notes. She is extremely active in her community by coaching community sports teams, teaching church school, and engaging in the town Democratic campaign. Her nominator writes her "students know they will be learning bell to bell. He is a believer in the P90X teaching philosophy: students learn best when exposed to multiple types of learning experiences. Students enjoy her class for several reasons. Her enthusiasm for Earth Science is contagious."

North Carolina

Beverly Owens is in her ninth year of teaching at Crest Middle School in Shelby, N.C. After graduating from Cleveland Community College, she completed her bachelor and master's degrees in middle grades education at Gardner-Webb University. In 2010, she received National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Science, and was selected as the NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center's Outstanding K-8 Educator Award.

Beverly works closely with the members of her science department to develop innovative team-teaching activities that will spark students' interest in science. She loves being able to use professional development to impact her classroom instruction. Beverly has had the opportunity to participate in activities such as dinosaur digs in Wyoming with the Schiele Museum of Natural History, trips with the Carolina Geological Society, and been an Educator at Sea on the Extreme Corals Expedition. These types of activities have provided her students with a wealth of resources including photos, rock and fossil samples, and information from scientists in the field.

Her favorite thing about teaching is being able to share the "world" of science with her 8th grade students. Whether it is inside of the classroom, in a real world setting, or after school, Beverly enjoys being able to provide science-based experiential learning opportunities for students.


Marie Carver - See Pacific Northwest Section Award Winner

South Carolina

Crystal Talleyteaches environmental science to grade 9-12 students at the Code Academy Alternative School in Seneca, South Carolina. Crystal is a career changer and once worked as a research biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Crystal believes strongly that students learn best by conducting hands-on research of their own design. She decided to change careers to fulfill a lifelong dream of teaching. Upon entering the alternative school, she realized that at-risk youth needed a more uniquely structured environment to experience academic success. Her priority was to expose students to the natural beauty that surrounds them and to move learning away from the four walls of the classroom where these students had already experienced so much defeat. Crystal began taking students to several state parks in the upstate of South Carolina to learn about unique natural, geographical, biological, and cultural features, bringing all core curriculum subjects together into one unified learning environment. Being outdoors has increased awareness, engagement and motivation in these at-risk youth over the past three years. Crystal's other recognitions include the 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year in Oconee County and an award for her efforts in establishing an organic community vegetable garden at Code.


Chris Vanags received his B.S. in Geology and M.S. in Agronomy/Soil Science from the University of Georgia. He received his Ph.D. in Hydrology and Catchment Management from the University of Sydney in Australia. Chris is an instructor for the School for Science and Math (SSMV) at Vanderbilt and Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach. He has been instrumental in the development and implementation of interdisciplinary research courses for high school students. Chris teaches using hands-on activities, technology, field trips, and actual research that attempts to answer current and real world earth science questions, and the students truly enjoy his enthusiasm! He has also set up student research collaborations between the SSMV and groups such as Metro Parks, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, NASA and Arizona State University, and the USGS. As much as he loves teaching earth sciences, he boasts that his "favorite things in the world are my three kids (Flinn, Ian and Leah), and my wife, Loren. They make me laugh. . . a lot." Chris is also an avid Ultimate Frisbee player; he has played for the Nashville Open and Masters sides, and coaches and plays in the Nashville summer league.


Dorothy Edwards holds a BS degree in Geography with concentrations in GIS and remote sensing from James Madison University. She currently teaches earth science at Strasburg High School in Strasburg, Va and has nine years of teaching experience. She demonstrates leadership with her involvement in statewide assessment by developing a pacing guide, holding testing review sessions, and writing an Earth Science Review Book for the Virginia State Assessment. As a result of attending the Pulsar Search program at NRAO Green Bank her students now access GBT data to search for undiscovered pulsars. In addition, she received grant funding from both the Moore Education Trust and University of Colorado Boulder/Stanford University for her students to build a radio telescope array and use the Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance Detection Monitor. She is currently involved a group who is founding the Virginia Earth Science Teachers Association. Her nominator Chris Georgarakis writes "She believes that among her students are future leaders of the community, the state and the country and that it is part of the responsibility of the classroom teacher to not only teach the content but to help them understand why it is important to their lives and how they will use it once they are finished with their education."

West Virginia

Rick Sharpe, a 20 year teaching veteran, currently teaches advanced earth science and environmental science at Huntington High School (HHS) in Huntington, WV. He holds a BS, MA, and MS from Marshall University. Quick to implement technology he has participated in many professional development projects: WV Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program with NASA IV&V Facility Educator Resource Center, Marshall University and Carnegie Mellon's GigaPan Project, Glenville State College's Jason Project, and Health Science Technology Academy (HSTA). He wrote curriculum for the Gold-Seal Project which serves as a state model, was awarded grant funding to engage students of the entire science department to study the local watershed, and serves as a member of Huntington High School's teacher leadership. He incorporated podcasting in his instruction before it was popular. He recently took a team of students to the 2012 White House Science Fair in Washington DC and was nominated as Cabell County Teacher of the Year. His nominator writes "His teaching philosophy is that given opportunity and motivation, all students will achieve. He uses a great deal of Project-based Learning to accomplish his instructional goals. Students love his class."