We all have attended our share of awards banquets and recognition dinners, but tonight’s celebration was like none I have ever attended. Tonight I received the honor of getting to speak to the 2005 Colorado recipients of the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence and the many honored guests who turned out to celebrate the achievements of two amazing teachers. Bob Dorsett of Meeker High School in Meeker, Colorado, and Mary Ann Varanka Martin of Estes Park High School in Estes Park, Colorado, each took home a cash award of $5,000 for their personal use and $5,000 awarded to their school.
Bob Dorsett has a list of accomplishments a mile long, but I was most impressed with his ability to motivate and inspire students to think like scientists. One of the many letters that accompanied his nomination was written by a student who explained that Dr. Dorsett only has two rules in his class. “Rule #1 is to think like a scientist and Rule #2 is to treat all living beings with respect.” Oh, by the way, the “doctor” title is an M.D. That’s right, he left the medical profession to teach science. Amazing!
Mary Ann Varanka Martin exhibits strong leadership skills both in the classroom and at the state level as key contributor to the writing of the Colorado science standards. Mary Ann believes that students learn best by doing and she has the ability to transform ordinary activities into unforgettable learning experiences. She received incredible praise from her students, her adminstration and some of the top thought leaders in Colorado in the area of standards-based education. Besides all of that, Mary Ann is an awesome science demonstrator — just ask her students.
I’m also quite impressed with the dedication and commitment of the Amgen Corporation to sponsor such a huge teaching award. Amgen established the teacher awards program to demonstrate the company’s commitment to advancing science education. Since the program’s inception in 1992, Amgen has awarded more than one million dollars to educators who have made exceptional science-teaching contributions and who have had a measurable impact on the lives of their students.
Tonight we honored teachers who have mastered the art of teaching the invisible — those things that cannot be outlined in any curriculum but are so profound that the students within their reach will forever be influenced by their teachings. Yes, there is hope!