NMAS 2021 Outstanding New Mexico Science Teachers Awardees
The New Mexico Academy of Science has been in existence for over 100 years and is an advocate and resource for science and science education in New Mexico.
The Outstanding Science Teacher Award given by the New Mexico Academy of Science honors New Mexico science and math educators. The Academy recognizes educators who provide opportunities for students to succeed in science. The award has been given since 1968 and nominations are open to all preK-12 teachers and all Informal Science educators throughout New Mexico. The award consists of a plaque and a monetary award, both presented at the annual NMAS Meeting/Symposium. The American Chemical Society joins with the Academy in this award and also presents a monetary award to the NMAS winning teachers.
This year, our two amazing awardees are Megan Strain, from Las Cruces and Kerrie Thatcher, from Carlsbad.
Meagan Strain is a 5th grade science teacher at Desert Hills Elementary in the Las Cruces Public Schools. She has taught for 9 years; and for the past two+ years she has been the departmentalized 5th grade science teacher, teaching all 5th grade students an hour of dedicated science each day – this is remarkable as the need for time for math and English language arts is great and science often loses out in elementary schools.
She is able to teach science all day in her classroom and dive more deeply into science than is common in elementary school. She genuinely cares for and supports her students and their families and is passionate about the success of her students. She understands how vital science education is and attends to equity by engaging all students in quality science learning. She also involves her larger school community by continuing to advocate for time spent in science teaching and learning.
Her students enjoy having science every day and many say that this is their favorite class. They collaborate through hands-on science and engineering experiences, they read, write, speak and listen about science concepts, they give presentations to their peers, and they engage in the foundations of scientific arguments using the process of “claim, evidence, reasoning.”
Ms. Strain has also served on the district Elementary Science Leadership Committee. This committee has been a critical component in promoting science education in Las Cruces Public Schools by creating district Science Instructional Guides for teachers and building content during Remote Instruction.
Kerrie Thatcher is a 6th-12 grade science teacher at Jefferson Montessori Academy, a Charter School authorized by Carlsbad Municipal Schools. She has taught for 10+ years and is also the science fair mentor and SpEd Coordinator. She is revered at JMA as a science nerd; and wows the younger students with her wacky Halloween experiments and Star Wars knowledge.
Ms. Thatcher has taught integrated science, biology, physical science, horticulture and chemistry; and was the driving force in creating a science fair requirement in 2015 for middle school and secondary students that focused on student interests and was fueled by parent and staff volunteers. What began as a school science fair has become annual regional, state, and international fair participation by both general education and special education students.
In 2019, a weekly STEM club was created to allow experienced science fair students to mentor elementary and middle school students with their research and projects. Ms. Thatcher believes that the science competitions are an excellent opportunity for students to learn how to handle themselves in interviews, respond to criticism appropriately, and be supportive of each other. Ms. Thatcher collaborates with other teachers to reinforce math concepts and ELA skills in student science presentations. Her dedicated mentorship of both middle and high school science students has led to a successful track record of awards and recognition for these students including competing and placing in the International Genius Olympiad in New York for 5 years.
The most amazing testament to her ability to turn science into a passion among students is the past graduates who return to talk about science or volunteer as a science fair judge for a new batch of “Thatcher’s Science Kids.”