2006 NMAS Outstanding Teacher Awards

by Harry F. Pomeroy, Jr., Awards Chairman, NMAS

At the NMAS Annual Banquet in December 2006, these teachers were honored as NMAS Outstanding Teacher Awardees. They are – Lesha Harenberg, Eldorado High School (Albuquerque) and Tammy Hinckley, Barranca Mesa Elementary School (Los Alamos)

Lesha Harenberg Eldorado High School, Albuquerque

I am from New Mexico, and went to Highland High School and UNM. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and am currently working on my Masters in Education with an emphasis on Science. I have been teaching at Eldorado High School for nine years, and I truly love my career. In the past I have taught Biology and Chemis- try, and I currently teach Anatomy and Physiology and AP Biology. I am married to a very supportive and wonderful man, and we have a two-year old daughter and are expecting the last addition to our family this Spring.

When I first started teaching, there was an editorial in the paper about a student who had done a science fair project presenting all the negative aspects of dihydrogen monoxide. He was in Montana, and he was successful in getting virtually all of his middle school class to vote to ban water. Right then I decided that the most important thing I could ever hope to teach my students was to be able to think for themselves. I want them to be able to look at the articles they read in the paper and actually think about whether or not they agree with them, I want them to look up information for themselves if they have questions, and I want them to learn to incorporate their background knowledge when learning new information. I do present an anti-dihydrogen monoxide article to my AP biology students at the beginning of the year, and each year, even though they’ve all taken chemistry, multiple students are appalled that this chemical is allowed to exist in the United States. After this assignment though, they really do start to think about the way science is represented in the media, and in a year’s time, they even learn to analyze scientific journals on their own.

The other key aspect of who I am as a teacher has to do with my relationship with my students. They know that I care about them, that I will make time for them, and that they can talk to me. They know that I will treat them with respect, and that I will be fair. I also hope that I am able to pass on a little bit of my passion for biology. Having a job where each day is different, and in which I get to keep up on new information in a field that I love is really amazing! It is wonderful to get to know teenagers, especially as they are figuring out who they are. My students are incredible, and I enjoy getting to interact with them each day. Contrary to popular belief, teens can be thoughtful, giving, organized, and fun, and I feel lucky to get to see so much of that on a daily basis.

Tammy Hinckley, Barranca Mesa Elementary School, Los Alamos

I am a native New Mexican. I was born in Albuquerque and moved to Los Alamos as a young child. I have lived in New Mexico my entire life except for one year when I lived in Germany and three semesters when I ventured to Texas for college. Unsure of what I wanted to do, I originally went to college to pursue a degree in counseling. That lasted three semesters and then I changed my major to accounting. I have my bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s degree in management. I spent the first part of my professional life crunching numbers for an engineering group at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

I realized that accounting was not my life calling, and decided to quit my job at the laboratory and go back to school. A big part of my decision had to do with the passing of my grandparents. Although they were not teachers within the academic community, they both had taught a craft. My grandfather taught woodcarving for many years and my grandmother had taught china painting. At their funerals, I discovered that they had done something important with their lives and had affected many people. I decided that I wanted to try to make a difference in children’s lives, and I have not once regretted my decision.

I applied for and was accepted into UNM’s Teacher Intern program. I remember my first year teaching during the program. Another intern and I were given a class to teach for the year. I got assigned to a charter school that among other things, believed in building their own curriculum. The school had no set curriculum. Luckily for me, it did own numerous Foss kits.

It was during the second summer of my intern program that I met Dr. Quincy Spurlin. I had a 7 am Science methods class with her. Although I still believe that people should not have to be functioning at 7 am in the morning, I loved Dr. Spurlin’s class and her method of teaching science. The class was a new adventure everyday. Each day the class got to play! We played, but in amongst the playing, we learned. We learned science concepts and got to experience fun, interesting methods of teaching those concepts. I want to thank Dr. Spurlin for instilling in me the “fun” of learning science.

After completing my licensure program, I worked for a year as a Special Ed. instructional assistant. This was a very valuable year for me as I was able to observe a variety of teaching styles. Then I received my first real teaching job, as a 3rd grade teacher at Barranca Mesa Elementary School, where I am still teaching today. After 5 years of teaching 3rd grade, I got promoted to 5th grade. This is my fourth year of teaching 5th grade.

I am very fortunate that the school in which I teach enables me to specialize in teaching science. As a 5th grade teacher, and earlier when I was teaching 3rd grade, I have been able to “team” teach. Currently I teach science to all the 5th grade students, while my team teachers are responsible for teaching math and language arts. This has allowed me to focus on one curriculum area, and hopefully design meaningful, fun lessons.

I have found that I thoroughly enjoy teaching science. My goal in teaching science is to try and make it meaningful and fun for my students. I want students to discover the concepts on their own, instead of my telling them. I do not consider myself to be a science expert. I just work to discover ways to make the concepts understandable for my students. Occa- sionally they will know some obscure fact to which I am totally oblivious. For example, “earthworms need to eat decaying food so that they can “slurp” it up”, or at least that is what I was recently told. I guess that I could do some research into earthworms, but then again, I’m OK with the students being the experts.