It’s a familiar but still inspiring story: Young students have their lives changed – their entire understanding of the Earth and geologic processes – because of a single person.
It happens in classrooms that overlook commanding mountain vistas. It happens in urban jungles and near suburban malls, in isolated towns and concrete expanses.
Geoscience teachers get the opportunity to share their knowledge and passion with students, and in that experience the world changes – often for both the teacher and the student, always for the better.
“I am a teacher because I love what I do, 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.”
Those are the words of Rebekah Kienenberger, an Earth and space science teacher at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert, Ariz., and the 2020 AAPG Teacher of the Year.
And what a career that has been. She creates curricula and materials for helping students “explore and participate in science through observation and data analysis,” according to school headmaster Corinne Jacobson. She is a “lifelong learner who brings enthusiasm and depth to the classroom.”
“Geology has been my heart and soul since high school, but it is often underrepresented and underestimated in terms of importance in schools,” Kienenberger said. “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.”
She inspires. She’s led her students on more than 20 field trips to volcanoes, caves, mines, sand dunes, fossil digs and – well, she is in Arizona – the Grand Canyon.
But here’s the key: What inspired her career? Who was the person who “sparked something within (me),” the one she never forgot? The reason why geology lives within her?
Her Earth science teacher.
The Foundation Mission
Supporting geoscience education and supporting the legacy – the way that geology inspires and lives on from generation to generation – is at the core of the AAPG Foundation’s mission.
Twenty-three teachers have won The annual “TOTY” award, presented by the AAPG Foundation as a way to promote and honor geoscience education. The prestigious award includes a cash prize of $6,000 – half of which is for the teacher’s personal use, the other half for the respective school under the winning teacher’s supervision.
“A huge part of our mission is ensuring that geoscience excellence and education will continue for students of all ages,” said Jim Gibbs, chair of the AAPG Foundation Trustees and a passionate supporter of geoscience education.
“When people support the Foundation, we’re better able to introduce students to geology, first by using their generous contributions to fund creative educational programs and curriculum,” Gibbs said.
“Secondly, because of people who support the Foundation we’re able to use those funds to recognize outstanding leaders and educators for their achievements in geoscience,” he added. “Rebekah Kienenberger is our most recent opportunity to do this directly, and rightfully so.”
“Her teacher inspired her, and because of that, hundreds of students continue to have their lives changed by geology,” he said.
And now it’s time to nominate educators for the 2021 TOTY award. Nominations for this year’s award are due January 31, and even in the era of COVID – especially in the era of COVID – the inspiring work of geoscience teachers needs to be recognized and rewarded.
Do you know a geoscience teacher who is making a difference? If so:
● Nominate a teacher – AAPG Section winners are automatically included in the TOTY finals, but others also can be nominated by school administrators, colleagues, students, parents, faculty members … and you!
● Support the AAPG Foundation. Contributions to the Foundation are your way of continuing the legacy of excellence in geoscience education.
More information is available on the Foundation website or email or call an AAPG Foundation programs coordinator at (918) 560-9426; toll free at 1-(855)-302-2743; or email at [email protected].
Teacher of the Year Award Recipients
||Arete Preparatory Academy, Gilbert, Ariz.
||Ernest Righetti High School in Santa Maria, Calif.
||South Sevier High School in Monroe, Utah.
||Erie High School in Erie Colo.
||St. Mary’s Catholic School, Mount Carmel, Ill.
||ThunderRidge High School, Littleton, Colo.
||Mahopac High School Mahopac, N.Y.
||Hudsonville Freshman Campus, Hudsonville, Mich.
||Green Mountain High School, Lakewood, Colo.
||Patrick Henry Elementary, Colorado Springs, Colo.
||L. Stef Paramoure
||Oak Run Middle School, New Braunfels, Texas
||Provo High School, Provo, Utah
||Sierra Middle School, Parker, Colo.
||Tulsa Street School, Tulsa, Okla.
||Helena High School, Helena, Mont.
||Montecito Union School, Santa Barbara, Calif.
||Polytechnic High School, Long Beach, Calif.
||Amy J. John
||BseBitAi Middle School, Shiprock, N.M.
||McCutcheon High School, Lafayette, Ind.
||Castle Rock Middle School, Castle Rock, Colo.
||La Colina Junior High School, Santa Barbara, Calif.
||Waynesville Middle School, Waynesville, Mo.
||No award given
||No award given
||Jane Justus Frazier
||Natomas High School, Sacramento, Calif.