Rebekah Kienenberger, an Earth and space science teacher at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert, Ariz., has been named the 2020 Teacher of the Year by the Tulsa-based AAPG Foundation.
“Geology has been my heart and soul since high school, but is often underrepresented and underestimated in terms of importance in schools,” Kienenberger said when notified of her award. “As an educator, it has been my goal to change the mindset around the field of geology and demonstrate why it is so crucial that all students learn about our Earth and its processes in order to better protect our planet and ourselves.”
The prestigious Teacher of the Year award is presented each year by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ Foundation to a K-12 teacher within the United States who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the field of geoscience education. The award includes a cash prize of $6,000 – half for Kienenberger’s personal use and half for Arete Preparatory Academy’s use for educational purposes under Kienenberger’s supervision.
“I was absolutely shocked when I found out I had received the AAPG Foundation award,” Kienenberger said. “I know that what I do makes a difference, but it can be easy to forget in the moment. Thank you, AAPG, for honoring the work that teachers do every day, particularly in the field of geology.”
Kienenberger holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from Missouri State University and a master’s degree in geology from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. She has been a faculty member of Arete Preparatory Academy for eight years.
Corinne Jacobson, then assistant headmaster of Arete Preparatory Academy, credited Kienenberger with writing Earth science curricula and securing grants for the school that have totaled nearly $200,000. Kieneberger also conducted “over 20 field trips to volcanoes, caves, copper mines, sand dunes, fossil digs and the Grand Canyon.”
In addition, she has “spent hours designing and hand-building materials for labs, such as live stream tables and environmental investigations,” Jacobson said, “which give students a way to explore and participate in science through observation and data analysis.”
“One of our core goals is to inspire the love of learning,” she added. “Ms. Kienenberger consistently inspires her students inside and outside the classroom … (she) is a lifelong learner who brings enthusiasm and depth to the classroom.”
“I am a teacher because I love what I do,” Kienenberger said, “and I can think of no greater good than cultivating the minds, souls and character of the young people who will lead our world one day.”
Kienenberger will receive an expense-paid trip to attend AAPG’s Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston in June to receive her award.
The AAPG Foundation also named five TOTY honorable mentions for 2020, each of whom will receive a $500 award.
- Sabrina Ewald, Centennial High School, Frisco, Texas
- Carolyn Klein, Westside High School, Houston
- Haley Metcalf, Franklin Park Middle School, Salem, Ill.
- Lynn “Ted” Pendergrass, Taft Union High School, Taft, Calif.
- u Rhoda Perkes, Lone Peak High School, Highland, Utah