Tuesday, May 6, 2014

TMA Physicians Award Outstanding Science Teachers

TMA Foundation President G. Sealy Massingill, MD (left), and Don Read, MD (right), present awards to teachers Rebecca Williams, Janet Jones, and Betty McCulloch.

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) named three Texas science teachers first-place winners of the 2014 TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching. The prizes were awarded at TexMed, the association’s annual conference, in Fort Worth. These educators help create tomorrow’s physicians by inspiring students in the field of science. Top recipients each are awarded a $5,000 cash prize, and their school receives a $2,000 resource grant toward its science programs.

TMA believes awards like this are important, as just 32 percent of Texas eighth-graders have achieved proficiency in science, according to the National Science Foundation’s “Science and Engineering Indicators 2014” report. Through this award, TMA hopes to help improve these numbers by recognizing innovative teachers and providing them resources to continue motivating and engaging students.

Science professionals from The University of Texas Charles A. Dana Center chose finalists from all the nominees, and physicians from TMA’s Educational Scholarship, Loan, and Awards Committee selected the winners.

Rebecca Williams — Elementary School Winner
Mrs. Williams teaches fifth-grade science at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Denton. She earned a bachelor of arts degree and a master of science degree in science education from Texas Women’s University. Teaching “is a calling similar to ministry or healing,” said Mrs. Williams, whose classroom is filled with objects, sounds, creatures, books, and stories to spark young minds. “I cannot imagine a more meaningful occupation, or one more critical to the well-being of our communities.” During her 23 years at Wilson Elementary, Mrs. Williams made lasting impressions on her students, many of whom are now adults studying in a field of science. Past student Kathryn Hokamp, an evolutionary biology major at Rice University, said of Mrs. Williams, “I never met a teacher more universally influential … her excitement was contagious.”

Betty McCulloch — Middle School Winner
Mrs. McCulloch teaches sixth-grade science at Clear Creek Intermediate School in League City. She learned to love science from her mother, an elementary school science teacher. Mrs. McCulloch inspires students through many means, once promising to eat live worms if they passed state tests. She involves the community in her lesson plans, creating a school Science Night and securing a grant to expand the event district-wide. “Betty McCulloch is a master teacher, impacting the lives of our children, staff, and her community every day,” said Greg Smith, PhD, superintendent of Clear Creek Independent School District. Mrs. McCulloch earned a bachelor of business administration degree from The University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Janet Jones — High School Winner
Mrs. Jones teaches biology, honors biology, and clinical health studies at Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas. With more than 40 years in the classroom, Mrs. Jones counts both the school’s principal and president as her alumni. “I have no idea how many of her former students are now serving as doctors in their communities, but I know that number is formidable,” said alumnus Thomas Garrison, who now is principal of Jesuit College Preparatory School. She created the Jesuit Medical Society, a club where students explore the possibility of a career in the medical field. Each year, Mrs. Jones coordinates a medical mission trip to Guatemala, where students care for patients alongside volunteer physicians. Mrs. Jones graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Mount Marty College-Yankton in South Dakota.

The TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching are supported by the TMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of TMA, thanks to an endowment established by Dr. and Mrs. Ernest C. Butler of Austin and a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, which has generously supported this program for 10 years.

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