Outstanding Science Teachers of 2014

It is our great pleasure to announce this year’s NMAS Outstanding Science Teachers – Lindsay Henson and Colleen Ruiz.

Lindsay Henson grew up in Indianola, Iowa, with a dream of attending Iowa State University, majoring in Biomedical Engineering, and becoming a Pediatric Oncologist. As a high school senior her goal started to change shape and would continue to morph into something she least expected, a high school science teacher.

In 1998, Lindsay moved 1100 miles away to Socorro, New Mexico to attend the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech) and pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry and emphasis in pre-med. When not studying, she worked at the campus daycare center with children ranging in ages from two to twelve and volunteered as the assistant cheerleading coach at the local high school. After graduating from New Mexico Tech, Lindsay moved to Albuquerque to pursue a career in outpatient physical therapy.

In 2005, she graduated from PIMA Medical Institute as a certified Physical Therapy Technician. After three years, she started the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at Western Governor’s University to become a high school science teacher. Lindsay completed her MAT degree in the summer of 2011 and started teaching at the Public Academy for Performing Arts (PAPA) that fall with the goals of encouraging students to do their best, to venture outside of their comfort zone, and try things they “don’t like.” It is this motivation that gives her students the opportunity to engage in:

  • National Honor Society: The program did not exist at PAPA until Lindsay started it in 2012.
  • NASA WISH Program (Women in STEM High School Scholars Program)
  • ExploraVision National Science Competition sponsored by Toshiba and NSTA
  • UNM Combined BA/MD Degree Program
  • Designing, building, and executing their own laboratory experiments to test linear motion, projectile motion, torque, center of gravity, Newton’s Laws, and Momentum
  • Career Fair: students research a career of their own choosing, relate it to their current science class, and then hold their own career fair

Colleen Ruiz earned her bachelor’s degree in science for Civil Engineering from New Mexico State University in 1997.  Over the next ten years she gained career experience with natural gas pipe lines, nuclear energy, forest management, as well as commercial, residential, and campus design.  In 2008, Colleen went back to school to earn a teaching license with a science endorsement.  She works for Annunciation School in Albuquerque. She developed and conducts hands-on, weekly labs for 200, 3rd – 6th grade students.  Students engage in dissections, mineral testing, erosion labs, hot air balloon design, wind turbine design, LEGO simple machines, chemistry experiments, build model electrically wired houses, and build solar powered cars among other adventures.

Colleen’s sixth grade students participate in:

  • Future City: Solve potential future problems including transportation and agriculture. Last year her students placed 2nd and 3rd at the state competition and won the best essay award.
  • Science Fair: Learn how to conduct scientific research, define variables, plan and conduct an experiment, analyze results, and draw conclusions.
  • NM Electric Car Challenge: Design, build, and compete with a battery operated vehicle.
  • Destination ImagiNation: Competition that emphasize creativity and teamwork.

Colleen has been treasurer of the New Mexico Science Teachers Association (NMSTA) for several years and helps coordinate the annual conference.  In 2013, she was awarded the New Mexico Science Teacher of the Year and the Excellence in Teaching Award.  She was also nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. She regularly has field experts in the classroom such as meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, Sandia Engineers, ER doctors, and scientist parents who help lead investigations and share career advice.  Colleen’s students participate in field trips to the Aquarium, Zoo, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Rio Grande Nature Center, and Explora!  These experiences make learning exciting, real, and meaningful to these students.