USEA Awards

UTeach STEM Education Association (USEA) Awards

2019 Winners

USEA President's Award

Larry Abraham

Lawrence D. Abraham, Ed.D. is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education and has been on the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin since 1975, with research leaves in 1980–81 at the National Institutes of Health and 1987–88 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

His research focuses on the coordination of movement, with particular interests in skill acquisition and in interactions between mechanical and neural (reflex and voluntary) components of movement. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in motor learning, motor control, and biomechanics. Dr. Abraham currently serves as a graduate faculty member in programs in Rehabilitation and Movement Science (in Kinesiology), Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience, and STEM Education. From 1998 to 2002 he served as Associate Dean for Teacher Education and Student Affairs in the College of Education, and from 2000 to 2008 he served as Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. 

In 1993–94 he held the William David Blunk Memorial Professorship in recognition of outstanding teaching and service to students. In 2012 he received the Ruth B. Glassow Biomechanics Honor Award from the Biomechanics Academy of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. In 2013 he received the Civitatis Award from the president of The University of Texas at Austin for distinguished service to the university.

Dr. Abraham served as Co-Director for the College of Education of the UTeach Natural Sciences Program for preparing secondary STEM teachers from 2003 to 2019. Since 2009 he has served as Associate Dean for the School of Undergraduate Studies, where his work focuses on enriching the undergraduate curriculum across the university.

Outstanding Master Teacher

Shelly Rodriguez
UTeach Austin

Shelly Rodriguez is an associate professor of practice and Master Teacher with the UTeach Austin program. She has been with UTeach since 2008 and holds a PhD in Science Education from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining UTeach, Shelly was a science teacher at Crockett High School in Austin ISD and received several teaching awards. She has been certified by The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and was awarded the Outstanding Paper Award from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching in 2012. Shelly’s areas of expertise include facilitating professional learning communities, mentoring, maker education, cross-cutting practices of the Next Generation Science Standards, and inquiry-based learning. Shelly helped to secure the most recent Robert Noyce Grant awarded to UTeach Austin, which established an innovative micro-credentialing program, UTeach Maker. Shelly is currently organizing the UTeach Make For All Initiative and helping to spread making and maker-centered instruction across the UTeach network.

Outstanding Staff Award

Erin Gonzales
UTeach Arlington

Erin Gonzales has been advising teacher candidates at The University of Texas at Arlington for 14 years. Her former field of research (and current hobby) is linguistics. While completing an MA in Linguistics with the goal of becoming a professor, she began working in the advising office to cover her educational expenses. In that role Erin discovered a passion for working with college students in a non-teaching capacity, which led to a shift in educational and career goals. She completed a PhD in Higher Education at the University of North Texas in 2016. Her dissertation research profiled persistence patterns of highly motivated mathematics and science freshmen.

In 2010, while working as Coordinator of Advising in the College of Education, Erin was invited to apply for a position in an exciting new program called UTeach. Being involved with UTeach Arlington since its inception has been the most rewarding experience of her career. She recruited the first cohort of freshmen and watched with great pride as they walked the stage four years later. In addition to providing academic advising services, Erin guides recruitment and retention efforts, coordinates internships and scholarships, directs candidates through the certification process, advises the student organization, supervises student employees, and manages the supply room. 

Erin has been recognized for her work at the national level, receiving the National Academic Advising Association’s Outstanding Advisor Award in 2014. She earned UT Arlington’s Outstanding Academic Advisor award twice, in 2009 and 2014. She has sat on several university committees addressing academic advising and student success, and has twice served as an officer in the university’s advising association. She has presented at conferences and co-authored papers on both broad and STEM-specific advising issues. She recently took a break from academic pursuits to start a family, but plans to resume her research on STEM major retention, as well as pursue new areas applying her background in linguistics.

Outstanding Alumnus 

Amieé Himler
UTeach Dallas

Amieé Himler graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2010 with a B.S. in Mathematics and completed her teacher certification program through UTeach Dallas in spring 2011. She will graduate with her M.A.T. in Mathematics Education in May 2019. Amieé is the Secondary Math Specialist for Richardson ISD, where she has spent her entire career thus far. Prior to this role, she wasa high school math teacher, department chair, curriculum writerand professional learning presenter. Her commitment and passion for supporting students and teachers is infectious, and it extends into the UTeach Dallas Program. Amieé continues to give back by serving as a mentor teacher to current UTeach Dallas students, as well as leading workshops for teachers in their first three years of teaching. She exemplifies what it means to be an outstanding student, teacher, and leader to her peers.

Special Award for Outstanding Contributions to STEM Education

Ariel Taylor
UTeach Austin

Dr. Taylor joined the UTeach Austin team in Spring 2019 as a Master Teacher. She teaches Step 1 and works with Mendez Middle Schoolto support teachers with remediation, enrichment and intervention for their students. Additionally, Ariel serves as the Program Coordinator for the UTeach Accelerate pathway. 

Ariel is a UTeach Austin alumna. She received both her B.S. and M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin. She also earned a doctorate in Professional Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Houston. Dr. Taylor holds her secondary math master teacher, principal, and superintendent certifications. She served as a high school math teacher, math specialist, and junior college math instructor prior to beginning her work here at UTeach Austin. 

Outside of her educational leadership work, she engages in youth empowerment through the nonprofit organization, The RISE Project, which she founded as an undergraduate student. Ariel has presented at schools and conferences around the world to assist educators in providing quality learning opportunities. She believes in the importance of authentic engagement and student accountability. Her book, Party of Four Please!: A Standards-Based Approach to Differentiation through Blended Learning, was released in September 2018.

2018 Winners

Outstanding Faculty Teaching

Greg Hale
University of Texas at Arlington

Greg Hale

Greg Hale earned his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999 and immediately joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Texas at Arlington as a Lecturer and Undergraduate Advisor. In his seven years there, he taught a total of 63 lecture courses and advised about 200 majors per semester for the department. In 2000, then Dean of Science Neal Smatresk recruited Greg to help teach in a master’s program for science teachers that was launching in 2001.

Over the next few years, Greg became more involved in the teaching of courses in this program and in its administration alongside his responsibilities in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. This culminated with him being named the Director of the Science Education and Career Center and Assistant Dean of Science in May 2006. In these roles, Greg has been the principal investigator for grants and gifts totaling $5.02M and the co-principal investigator on an additional $5.03M. This funding has fueled projects including summer camps that have served 600 residential campers and 150 day campers and a chemistry demonstration squad that has served over 130,000 K–12 students, funded scholarships for dozens of science teachers pursuing master’s degrees, and funded the UTeach replication at UTA, which has increased the secondary mathematics and science teacher production there by 500%.

After replication funding for UTeach was secured, Greg was named one of three co-directors at UTA. Greg has been the lead instructor for Research Methods nine times and a co-instructor the other two times the course has been offered, so he has been able to work with almost every UTeach Arlington graduate. Over his entire career, Dr. Hale has been the sole or lead instructor for nearly 180 lecture course sections, but Research Methods is still a whirlwind every semester. In his personal time, Greg was a board member at one of the oldest charter schools in Texas, Arlington Classics Academy, from 2008 until 2015, serving as board treasurer from 2009 to 2012 and president from 2012 to 2015. In his time on the board, the school grew from 400 to over 1,200 students, from four acres of property to over 20, and from a fund balance of under $400k to one over $3M.

Outstanding Master Teacher

Rico Tyler
University of Western Kentucky

Rico Tyler

Rico Tyler is a master teacher with the SKyTeach program at Western Kentucky University. Before joining WKU in 2001, he spent 19 years teaching high school physics and won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. During his time teaching high school, he served a year on loan to the Kentucky Department of Education as a science teaching consultant. Since 1984, he has been an astronomy faculty member of the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program.

Rico’s interests include providing professional opportunities for both SKyTeach students and practicing teachers. He created a Teaching Fellows Program in cooperation with the Governor’s Scholars Program, giving SKyTeach students the opportunity to develop inquiry-teaching skills by co-teaching with GSP science faculty. In 2012, he began an international student teaching program with the Liceo Scientifico Respighi, a science magnet high school in Piacenza, Italy. Rico also directs a regional bridge building contest and a K–12 rocket competition. During the months leading up to the August 2017 solar eclipse, he conducted numerous workshops preparing Kentucky teachers to share the experience with students.

In addition to his SKyTeach work, Rico is the co-director of the National STEM Scholar Program. In partnership with the National Stem Cell Foundation, the STEM Scholar Program recruits creative middle school science teachers from across the U.S. to promote creative approaches to inquiry learning. He has also conducted workshops on the 5E model and inquiry learning for teachers from Italy, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Outstanding Staff Member

Kim Distin
University of Texas at Dallas

Kim Distin

Kim Distin’s passion for organization can be traced back to elementary and middle school when she would organize closets, the kitchen pantry, and neighborhood babysitting co-ops. She has excelled as the Science/Mathematics Education Department Program Coordinator, Materials Manager, and Intern Coordinator since the inception of the UTeach Dallas program in 2007. Kim is vital to the daily operation of the UTeach Dallas program from class, lab, and lesson materials management, web and social media, data reports, alumni tracking, and more.

Kim has devoted the last 20-plus years to education of both herself and others. She taught high school science in the Dallas area for 10 years before moving to UTD. While at UTD, her Master’s research on the Integrated Physics and Chemistry course influenced the State Board of Education’s determination of graduation requirements. As she worked closely with the UTeach Dallas students, she discovered her next research project idea. Kim recently earned her PhD from Curtin University of Australia with her award-winning research on multiple learning environments that UTeach students experience throughout their university careers and how their perceptions of these change as their pedagogical knowledge increases.

While organizing the Science/Mathematics Education Department is her primary job function by day, Kim also puts those organizational skills to use by spending many nights and weekends as an active volunteer dance mom, PTA mom, and running a 5,000+ member online Rick Springfield fan group.

Outstanding Alumnus

Jennifer West
UTeach Arlington

Jennifer West

Jennifer West completed the UTeach Arlington program in 2014 as part of the program’s first graduating class. After graduation, she began her teaching career at Irving High School, a Title I school in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. She was instrumental in recruiting a large number of UTeach alumni to work on the campus, which currently employs 15 UTeach graduates. After her first year of teaching, she was promoted to Chemistry subject head and continues to serve in this role.

In 2017, the Irving Independent School District Curriculum Department invited Jennifer to serve as a curriculum writer, having noted her leadership and ongoing work to create and share inquiry-based lessons. In this role, and as Chemistry subject head, Jennifer has worked to increase inquiry-based teaching throughout the district. She spearheaded the project to rebuild the high school Chemistry curriculum from scratch, embedding 5E cycles for each of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.

This year, Jennifer ran professional development sessions for each of the 12 Chemistry units, ensuring that each teacher in the district was comfortable conducting the labs, had a foundational understanding of the 5E process, and was ready to bring this into their classroom instruction. She has received feedback from teachers who have traditionally done no inquiry, letting her know that they are implementing inquiry-based teaching in their classrooms. She would like to thank her family, friends, professors, and coworkers—the impact they’ve had is immeasurable. 

2017 Winners

Outstanding Alumnus

Janice Trinidad
UTeach Austin

Janice Trinidad

Outstanding Faculty Scholar

Lisa Duffin
Western Kentucky University

Lisa Duffin

Outstanding Master Teacher

Pamela Powell
University of Texas at Austin

Pamela Powell

Outstanding Staff Member

Lindsey Robinson
University of West Georgia

Lindsey Robinson

USEA Special Award

Tracy LaQuey Parker

Tracy LaQuey Parker

 

2016 Winners

Outstanding Alumnus

William Kiker
UTeach Austin

William Kiker

Outstanding Faculty

Mark Daniels
University of Texas at Austin

Mark Daniels

Outstanding Master Teacher

Perri Segura
University of Houston

Perri Segura