Amy J. John,
an eighth grade earth sciences teacher whose classes integrate science
and geology with the language, culture and even mythology of her
predominantly Navajo students, has been selected as AAPG's National
Earth Science Teacher of the Year.
John, who teaches at the TseBitAi
Middle School in Shiprock, N.M., will receive her award in May at
the AAPG Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City.
The award includes a $5,000 prize,
funded by the AAPG Foundation. Half of the award money is designated
for use under John's supervision for education purposes at TseBitAi;
the other half is for her own personal use.
John, who is part Navajo, grew
up on the reservation where she now teaches, and knew long ago that
she "wanted to come back … to give back to the children."
She said she had her first exposure
to earth sciences while attending Navajo Community College there,
when she took a geology class and became drawn to the subject. She
received her bachelor's degree in education from Fort Lewis College
in Durango, Colo., and her master's in education from New Mexico
She plans to pursue a doctorate
degree and teach at the college level, specializing in earth sciences.
During the past year John's teaching
has emphasized environmental issues in the earth sciences.
"The Navajo People believe that
we should take care of Mother Earth, and Mother Earth will take
care of us," John said in talking about her teaching approach, which
uses the concepts of elements in Yakashbaah (above the surface)
and Nikashbaah (below the surface, including oil and gas production).
"They will understand how one
thing affects another, developing cycles," she said.
"We did a lot of hands-on activities
such as testing water, soil, air quality and groundwater in the
vicinity of Shiprock," she said. "Based on these field trips, some
students became very interested in the environmental aspect and
wanted to do experiments of their own … (they) went on to the
Science Fair competitions based on their activities."
Recently she also received the
National Teacher of Excellence award and was recognized by President
Bush for her work with students.
An EXPLORER interview with John
about her teaching experiences and approaches to earth sciences
will be carried in a future issue.