Mar 28, 2005

Two Minnesota Teachers Honored for Work in Science Education

Long before the recent push to close achievement gaps for school children, two Minnesota science teachers were going above and beyond to leave no child behind -especially ones in math and science. Cynthia Welsh, science teacher from Cloquet Middle and High School, and Jennifer Hugstad-Vaa, Phd., science teacher from Burnsville Senior High School, recently were each honored with the Seagate Mentor Award for their outstanding work in science education.

Introduced two years ago, the Seagate Mentor Award, sponsored by Seagate Technology, provides an annual, statewide recognition for teachers who have mentored student participants in the Minnesota Academy of Science State Fairs. Two awards are presented - one for a teacher with one to ten years of teaching experience and the second for a teacher with 11 or more years of experience. Seagate Mentor Award winners' receives a plaque and $1,000, and his or her respective school receives a plaque and $1,000 for the science department.

"What makes these awards special is that students nominate the teachers," said Tamara Hauser, director of the Minnesota Academy of Science. "It shows that the teachers are having an impact on student's interest in science education. And Welsh and Hugstad-Vaa are excellent examples of teachers who are trying to ensure that students are getting all they can out of school."

For the last four years, Welsh has been mentoring science students at Cloquet Middle and High School. This year, she mentored 46 middle and 16 high school students who entered their projects in the regional science fair. All four northern-region spots for the Intel International Science Engineering Fair, basically the Olympics of science fairs, were awarded to students' Welsh mentors.

With Hugstad-Vaa, it is 27 years of mentoring. Her science students at Burnsville Senior High School receive hands-on attention from a teacher who has as much passion for teaching science today as she did on her first day in the classroom almost three decades ago. Hugstad-Vaa's work includes mentoring honor students involved in science research, which she has done for 15 years, and providing students with a more extensive opportunity to conduct scientific research through a new class she recently created.

"These two teachers have shown relentless dedication to mentoring students in the area of math and science," said Bob Whitmore, senior vice president of product development. "They also are helping students' of this state see how fun and interesting science can be."

According to the U.S. Commission on National Security in the Twenty-First Century reports, "More Americans will have to understand and work competently with science and math on a daily basis." Yet, 82 percent of our nation's twelfth graders performed below the proficient level on the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress science test. So, getting teachers' who are knowledgeable, experienced and dedicated to math and science is more important than ever to improving these levels. With Welsh and Hugstad-Vaa, improvement is on its way.

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