It seemed like a normal Thursday for Annie Means at B. McDaniel Middle School in Denison. With the aid of another teacher and a very friendly bulldog, Means was teaching her seventh grade science class about genetics and heredity. But a quick glance out the window let her know something strange was afoot.
“I saw the balloons through the window, and I was like ‘Oh no, what did I do?’” said Means.
What she had done, it turns out, was inspire a love of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in her students. And for Means and three other Texoma teachers, that meant a surprise party, complete with cake, balloons, and a $2,000 prize, courtesy of Texas Instruments.
According to TI employee and prize patrol member Heidi Means, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM, in educational shorthand) are incredibly important skills for 21st-century students.
“This is our future,” said Heidi Means. “It’s the future for our company, it’s the future for our country. So that’s why we are very passionate about STEM education and really reaching out in the community to encourage it, recognize it, and reward it.”
Two prizes were given to Sherman teachers, and two to Denison. The reward is split in half: $1,000 of the prize goes to the teacher’s department for use in training or purchasing new equipment, and $1,000 goes directly to the teacher to use for whatever they wish.
“We are grateful and thankful to TI for providing this support to our teachers and recognizing them for the jobs they do as educators,” said SISD superintendent Al Hambrick, who joined the celebration crew for its rounds in Sherman. “Our STEM programs are growing and we look forward to continuing to expand that in this partnership.”
The four winners of the TI STEM Education Teaching Awards were:
Scoggins teaches eighth grade science at Piner Middle School in Sherman. “I love science and I love kids,” Scoggins said. “I think when you put those 2 things together in the classroom, science can be really fun.”
Scoggins said she isn’t quite sure where her prize money will go. “I guess I’ll talk about it with the other teachers and see what we need the most, what we can get the most use out of,” she said. She also mentioned spending some of the personal money she will receive to replace her recently lost Aggie class ring.
Means teaches seventh grade science at B. McDaniel Middle School in Denison. “A lot of this is because I have great curriculum people and principals who allow me to try new things,” she said of her success. “They say, ‘Yeah, go for it, try it.’ I’m so thankful for this award, but I feel like a lot of it is just the people around me. Without them, I wouldn’t get to do what I get to do.”
Means has her eye on an outreach visit from the staff of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. “We had the Perot Museum come this year, but I want to extend that program to next year’s students as well. And this will give me that opportunity.”
An algebra II teacher at Denison High school, Cordell says she believes in practical applications. “I have a passion for connecting math and science with what we do in the classroom. So it’s not just about bookwork, it’s about trying to connect careers and math together, especially at the higher level.”
Every year, Cordell has students create T-shirt designs on their graphing calculators. “I’d love for them to actually be able to get the product that they create, without having to be able to afford it,” said Cordell. “So that’s where some of the money will go.”
Gruhn teaches physics and computer science at Sherman High School. “I think that my passion for science and my passion for helping students grasp science and embrace science both inside and outside of the classroom helped me to win this award,” he said. “I just love science, and I think my students can understand that.”
Gruhn, who is leading the fledgling forensics program at SHS, says he will use some of the funds to equip a crime lab. “Forensics is a new program for us, and we started from the ground up this year,” said Gruhn. Items on his wishlist include anthropological tools, ballistics tests, and blood spatter analysis tools, because “all the kids love blood spatter.”