high school teacher Mike Fillipow will be honored as AAPG's Earth
Sciences Teacher of the Year at the annual meeting's All-Convention
Luncheon on Monday, April 19, in the Dallas Convention Center.
Fillipow is one of those fortunate people whose passion and
occupation are a perfect fit.
passion for geology led him to create a course in the science at
Long Beach (Calif.) Polytechnic High School.
step, filled with enthusiasm and innovation, put him on a path that
has brought geology into the lives of his teenage students — results
that led AAPG to honor him as the 2004 Earth Sciences Teacher of
bestowed annually by the AAPG
Foundation for excellence in the teaching of natural resources
in the earth sciences, includes $2,500 to Fillipow's school and
$2,500 for his own use. It follows a similar $250 award as Teacher
of the Year from the Los Angeles Basin Geological Society.
launched his geology class four years ago, drawing 25 students the
first year. It has grown to two classes with 30-35 students in each,
amazingly, a pioneering effort into new territory for his community.
doesn't have any true geology classes," Fillipow said. "That's what
I really want to teach, so with the help of the local university
and geologists I put it together and got it approved."
city geologist and AAPG member Don Clarke was aware of Fillipow's
efforts and suggested he apply for the teaching award.
accompanying the nomination, colleagues had high praise for Fillipow,
who gained his National Board Certification last year.
insightful, creative and energetic" were words used by fellow teacher
is a top quality teacher," school principal Shawn Ashley wrote.
said Fillipow's popularity among the students is a major reason
for the growth in the number of young people taking the elective
a doubt, the most valuable of the many lessons that Mike has developed
is a cross-curricular unit on the petroleum industry, where his
science students become the owner-operators of imaginary oil companies
and must decide where and when to drill for oil based on the geology
and economy of a specific region," Ashley said.
his students by personal example how they can appreciate and help
guard the earth's resources," Ashley continued. "He demonstrates
what life-long learning really is — he is constantly sharing his
efforts with other teachers."
said he was excited about receiving the AAPG honor because it could
help give the class more exposure and lead to more funding.
with field trips, which are one of the first things to get cut"
in a budget crunch, he said.
field trips have included sessions at the Los Angeles Museum of
Natural History, which has the most extensive collection of rocks
and minerals on the West Coast, and to Palos Verde to study structural
third outing is a petroleum field trip.
living in the Los Angeles Basin, there's lots to see there," Fillipow
a surprise to a lot of his students.
are inner city kids who live virtually on top of a huge oil reserve
and don't even know it," Fillipow said. "We're living, working and
going to school right on top of it."
he believes, take the course for a variety of reasons.
had me before in other science classes, others had a glimpse of
geology and want to learn more, others get dropped in by a counselor
and have no idea what they're getting into. It's quite a mix," he
knows what to do with them once he has them.
is that when they leave they will have an appreciation for the earth
and its resources," Fillipow said. "Also, if they take geology in college it will be one of the easiest courses they ever had."
classes emphasize activities and experiments rather than lectures
— and are aimed at helping students develop additional learning
the oil "game," for example, one student checked the
market price of oil on that day, and said, "I'm holding on to
my oil until the price goes up."
perfect economics," Fillipow said. "I started calling him 'OPEC'
from then on."
In a "cookie mining" project, students "mine" nuts, raisins
and other "resources" without destroying the cookie.
teaches an environmental aspect," he said.
In another exercise, oil is spilled into a pie pan landscaped
with water, rocks and a sandy beach area.
try to keep the spill from spreading, and when it gets onto
the rocks and beach, they have to clean it up," he said.
said he hopes eventually to get his class approved as an advanced
placement course, after which students can take a test in the subject
and receive college credit.
a career teacher, received his bachelor of science in engineering
geology from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1986.
swimming and cross country and teaches other sciences, but makes
his first teaching love clear:
is what I've always wanted to teach, so I had to get the course
approved," he said.
the highlight of my teaching. I wish I had all geology every day."