Terry Snow’s teaching methods are a little different. But then, sometimes making history demands something out of the ordinary.
Snow, an eighth-grade science teacher at Aledo Middle School, is the district’s first instructor to become a finalist for the 2017 Presidential Awards of Excellence in Math and Science. The winner will be announced later this spring.
This is her fourth time to be nominated for the honor, but the first time she has advanced to the finals.
“The methods I use in the classroom change over the years are based on what the students need. Methods, approaches, and opportunities I have sought out have been/are influenced by teacher development opportunities the district provides, proven research, and ultimately what will equip students to be the leaders in and beyond the classroom,” Snow said.
“For teens to become invested the work must be relevant.”
For example, over the past 11 years students have restored 25 acres of tall grass prairie. In one year alone students volunteered 3,062 hours to improve both their environment and practice what they are learning in the classroom, replaced Bermuda grass with native plants that conserved over 12,000 gallons of water per year, and taught 800 additional students each year the concepts they learned within environmental science objectives.
In addition, her students have made presentations on both the state and national level.
“My success, this award included, is the success of my students throughout their time at the middle school, but more importantly their success throughout the rest of their lives,” Snow said. “Purposed work can give young people purpose when they believe they are too young to make a difference. It gets students to look beyond themselves and have a broader perspective.”
The application process for the award consists of three components, administrative, narrative, and video. The components allow the applicant to provide evidence of deep content knowledge and exemplary pedagogical skills that result in improved student learning. After eligibility is confirmed and technical specifications are met, each application will be evaluated using the following five dimensions of outstanding teaching:
▪ Mastery of content appropriate to grade level taught.
▪ Use of instructional methods and strategies that are appropriate for the students in the classroom and that support student learning.
▪ Effective use of student assessments to evaluate, monitor, and improve student learning.
▪ Reflective practice and life-long learning to improve teaching and student learning.
▪ Leadership in education outside the classroom.
Applications are reviewed at the state and national level by prominent mathematicians, scientists, mathematics/science educators, district level personnel, and classroom teachers.
“We are so proud of Mrs. Snow and her recognition as one of the top teachers in the state,” Aledo Superintendent Dr. Derek Citty said. “She makes a difference in the classroom every day, and her impact and dedication to our middle school students in immeasurable.
“We are blessed to have Mrs. Snow in Aledo ISD, and this honor speaks to the quality of teachers we have in our district.”
Snow, an Azle High graduate with a bachelors degree in science from Dallas Baptist University, said she has always been fascinated by science since an early age. Now, she is passing that enthusiasm on to her own students.
“Science provides the evidence needed to answer questions fueled by curiosity. My students will tell you they love the mystery of the unknown and the reasoning behind why things work the way they do,” she said. The process of discovery and reasoning flows into every single content area and part of life.
“My first introduction stems from my grandma ordering Ranger Rick magazines for me when I was little.”
She said necessity has always drawn her to science, questions that need answers, problems that need to be solved through trial and error, or understanding that needs to be gained for the betterment of herself or another person.
“Science is not just about learning concepts, but learning how to process information to reach a conclusion that a person can defend based on evidence,” she said. “Young people have access to an incredible amount of global information and ideas. They need the opportunity to learn that there is a good purpose to not believing a claim at face value.
“To ask for the evidence and test its credibility will only solidify their conclusion so that they can form an educated response. The quote I give my students often is that ‘Science is not the art of opinion. Opinions lead to arguments, facts lead to debates.’ Science plays a role in public policy, an individual’s health, security, and place of employment.”
Snow said science is more important than ever in this age of ever-advancing technology.
“Science allows others to lead advancements that benefit society, explains how the natural world is interdependent on each other, why problems exist, and how structures function,” she said. “The practice of science allows nations to lead and protect, and individuals to make educated, independent choices.
“To omit or decrease funding for science education on a local, state, and/or national level would open the door for stagnation and dependency.”
And though she has been nominated before, being a finalist is humbling, Snow said.
“The company of the other four state finalists is awing. I can look at one of the additional finalists and say, ‘Yep, that’s the resume I want to have by the end of my career.’ Another candidate has been tenacious with teaching educators on how to improve their practice on the local, state, and national level.
“There is much left for me to do. To be told you are serving effectively and serving in a way that does make a difference from a third party source is rejuvenating for one’s morale and endurance.”