NMAS 2022 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 Hope Cahill, from Santa Fe, and Colleen Fordyce, from Albuquerque.

Hope Cahill

Hope Cahill began as a Language Arts and Creative Writing teacher. Since 2012, she has been a science teacher for 6th and 7th grades at el Dorado Community School in Santa Fe, who occasionally picks up a section of language arts.

She has fostered connections between the NM content standards and curriculum and New Mexico’s rich geologic and scientific history. She has integrated literacy and technology into her instruction and has created curriculum that accommodates a variety of abilities and learners within the classroom setting. She authored the article Place-Based Educational Activities (Inspired by the Socorro Magma Body) in the Summer 2021 issue of The Earth Scientist, a quarterly journal of the National Earth Science Teachers Association.

Over the years she has assumed additional responsibilities, including the remote-learning Science Design Team, Middle School Science Fair Coordinator, Global Warming Express mentor, Mentor for Santa Fe High School Supercomputing Challenge team, and STEM Pathways for Girls Conference planning committee and group guide.

She is a 2020 recipient of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching and a 2021 recipient of the Partners in Education Teachers Who Inspire Award. She was a Thornburg Corporate Giving Program grant recipient in 2021.

One of her nominators, a former Assistant Principal said:

“One of Ms. Cahill’s biggest strengths as a teacher is that her genuine love of science is felt by her students. She exhibits a deep passion for science teaching and learning and cares deeply about her students. She never stops creating and sharing her expertise with her students and her community. As an outreach project, Ms. Cahill worked with Tesuque Pueblo to share resources acquired through her Thornburg Grant. And she is working toward El Dorado becoming a pilot site for a project based solar technology education program. From a parent’s perspective, I was incredibly lucky to have my own middle school daughter in Ms. Cahill’s science class. After 2 years in Ms. Cahill’s class, my daughter left as a confident science student and has pursued science beyond middle school.

I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the Outstanding NM science teacher award than Ms. Cahill. She has endless energy and drive to make the world a better place through her gifts as a science educator.”

Colleen Fordyce

Colleen Fordyce earned a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from UNM. She pursued postdoctoral studies at the University of California, San Francisco where she applied insights from her doctoral studies to describe cellular responses to telomere shortening which were associated with increased risk for breast cancer. While pursuing a career as a research scientist Dr. Fordyce also sought out opportunities to teach. Ultimately, Dr. Fordyce decided to hang up her pipettes and pursue teaching full-time. She has taught at La Cueva High School in Albuquerque since 2017 and currently teachers biology and AP biology. Dr. Fordyce is motivated by several factors, including a desire to prepare her students to be empowered science consumers and to inspire them to pursue STEM fields in college. She is humbled and inspired by her amazing students who laugh as hard as they work.

She brings her experience as a research scientist to her classroom and has developed unique labs that expanded the hands-on experience for students while linking to real world problems. For example, her AP biology students recently used chemistry and the properties of water to examine data collected on the surface of Mars and her freshman biology class recently completed a case study of the polio vaccine. She uses her ties to researchers to bring guest speakers to her students and during 2019, when APS schools closed, she created a virtual scientific conference with a series of weekly virtual seminars for her students presented by researchers from across the country.

During the summer of 2020, Dr. Fordyce co-authored an entire NGSS-aligned Biology unit which could be delivered virtually for APS schools. The unit allowed students to explore the relationship between global warming, the decline of Piñon-Juniper woodlands in New Mexico, and their impact on the ecosystem. Students were encouraged to develop potential solutions to combat the decline in piñon-juniper woodlands.

She is the La Cueva HS Science Bowl Mentor and a member of several teams of teachers at La Cueva HS who support struggling students and identify areas and strategies for school-wide improvement.

In 2019 she co-facilitated a district-wide instructional workshop on NGSS standards for biology teachers. She has prepared unit and lesson plans for AP Biology using NM-PED, NGSS, and Common Core Standards.

One of her nominators said:

“As impressive as her accomplishments are, they fail to capture the joy and enthusiasm that Dr. Fordyce brings to her students. Her expectations of her students are high and yet, her students rise to meet them – in part because she provides consistent encouragement and a curriculum that is carefully designed to meet students where they are, while also pushing them forward.”