NMAS Names Outstanding New Mexico Teachers for 2005
Harry F. Pomeroy, Jr., Awards Chairman, NMAS
At the NMAS Annual Banquet in November 2005, these teachers were honored as NMAS Outstanding Teacher Awardees – Steven Brügge, Eisenhower Middle School (Albuquerque) and Joe Matteson, Pojoaque Valley High School (Espanola)
It is a great honor to receive this award from the New Mexico Academy of Science. I’ve been at Eisenhower Middle School in Albuquerque for the last 16 years. I did my student teaching with high-school seniors and envi- sioned working with them as my career. When it was time, however, to get a job, I found myself working with very young adolescents—6th and 8th graders at Eisenhower. It’s wonderful!
Middle school is the perfect place to excite students about the wonders of science. I’ve been most fortunate to have the strong support of both parents and administration. I also have amazing students. I do have to admit that I could do without some of the meetings after school and most of the non-academic paperwork. When that bell rings, how- ever, the rest of my world vanishes and I have the privilege of teaching science.
I do not use a textbook. My students and I spend at least 80% of our time collecting data, analyzing that data and writing up our results. The nature of science is to ask questions, experiment, and communicate the results with others. This is a process that middle-school students love. What’s more fun than wrapping wire around a bolt, hooking that up to a battery and finding out the relationship between the strength of the electromagnet and the number of coils? Or looking through a spectroscope at a host of light sources to find out the ‘signature’ of each source? This is fabulous stuff, and I’m like the Pied Piper with all the cool toys.
While I have a solid set of State Standards to guide me, my real hope is that students will leave my classroom with a firm understanding of how science approaches the physical world. Finding the exact boiling point of water in Albuquerque may be forgotten, but I hope students remember how many trials it took with various thermometers. I also hope that my teaching causes students to go home and mention to mom or dad some wacky thing I said or some cool experiment they performed. If I can make a 14-year- old girl talk to her dad about science at the diner table, then I’ve done my job.
Raised in northwestern Oregon, I attended K-12 in a small rural school district and graduated in a class of 38. Through a turbulent adolescence I found support in family, and among my teachers; all throughout school my teachers encouraged me and pointed out my potential. My high school science teacher, Jill Sisson, from whom I took Chemistry, Physics and Advanced Biology, was particularly instrumental in showing me a path that led me first back into the academics of high school science (I was failing most of my classes, including Biology), then on to college, and eventually to a career as a high school life science teacher. I will be forever grateful for her guidance and optimism, as well as for her example and encouragement. She inspired me to pursue the career I am now enjoying so much.
After graduating from Portland State University with my BS, I changed direction from medical research toward secondary education by enrolling in and finishing PSU’s Graduate Teacher Education Program in 1995. I taught two years at Lake Oswego High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon, then was curiously unemployed for two years as I searched for my next teaching position. The Lord then led my wife Jan and I to sell our home and make the move to Northern New Mexico where I was hired, over the phone, to teach in my current position at Pojoaque Valley High School, 20 miles north of Santa Fe.
Jan and I have been together for over 17 years, and were married in 1993. My wife is a big encourager of mine, and has also recently begun working within the school district as a teacher’s aide; she is experiencing firsthand the value of investing our time into children. Together we manage a small organic farm south of Espanola where we raise sheep, chickens and two llamas who contribute eggs, wool and fiber, respectively. We sell our eggs and produce at local farmer’s markets during the summer.
Teaching is unquestionably what I am supposed to be doing at this point in my life, and I understand exactly what people who have been quoted as saying ‘teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a calling’ mean. I take my duties very seriously, while at the same time creating a classroom atmosphere of safety, respect and humor. I make every effort to hold my students to a high academic standard, and to meet each student where they are and help them to improve. I now call New Mexico home, have many friends here, and do my best to make a positive impact and to be a worthy role model to the 130 or so students entrusted to me each year.