Award for Teaching Excellence

The PAESTA Award for Teaching Excellence. This annual award recognizes a dedicated Pennsylvania K-12 teacher who has made exemplary contributions to the field of Earth and Space Science education. The award is presented at the PAESTA Annual Conference, to an individual that has made a difference in any or all the following criteria.

  • Demonstrated sustained excellence and exemplary Earth and Space Science teaching
  • Effective use of Earth and Space Science printed and technological materials
  • Presented and/or published in the field of Earth and Space Science
  • Served as an advocate for Earth and Space Science teaching and learning beyond the classroom

Award for Teaching Excellence - 2016

Congratulations to Veronika Ann Paluch - 2016 Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

Principal Donna Lindiner accepting the award on Veronika's behalf.

Veronika Ann Paluch, of The Agnes Irwin School, Bryn Mawr, has received the 2016 PAESTA Award for Teaching Excellence. This award is presented annually to a K-12 teacher who has made exemplary contributions to the field of Earth and space science education.

Paluch brings more than six years of Earth and space science experience to her elementary-aged students. Paluch began her career as an elementary school homeroom teacher. When offered a position teaching science, she readily accepted and has worked to make the experience more project-and-inquiry based to challenge the students.

PAESTA president David Curry had this to say on behalf of Paluch, “I am so proud and honored to spotlight a true leader in the classroom! Veronika Paluch is exactly the kind of educator we look to recognize at PAESTA – knowledgeable, nurturing, dynamic, committed, and driven to excellence. Veronika is truly igniting a zest for science in every one of her students in the same spirit as the late Carl Sagan. Veronika embodies the best in teachers. Her caring and thoughtful efforts towards making science authentic and rewarding will carry forward to a new generation of leaders in the STEM fields yet to come. We thank Veronika for her energy and excitement that she surely delivers every day to her very lucky students. Congratulations Veronika, we are grateful to call you one of our own!”

Paluch has since advanced her science educational skills by becoming certified to teach middle school science and environmental science. She joined the second cohort of the DCIU/Temple STEAL partnership to advance her skills in science instruction and knowledge. Paluch also co-founded and co-teaches the robotics club, including creating and hosting the first robotics challenge at Agnes Irwin.

Paluch’s enhancements to the Agnes Irwin science program include advancing the traditional textbook-based programs into an earth and science project-based program. The science program is frequently featured in Agnes Irwin’s social media posts and publications.

A final project requires students to represent planets in our solar system, research the planets and then create a variety of research on what they have learned.

Former PAESTA president Kathy Tait said, “Veronika Paluch exemplifies being a teacher of earth science. She actively involves her students in the process of science, invites the community of scientists to Skype with her class, and develops curriculum and activities that her students find both interesting and exciting. She is a teacher who is dedicated to developing future scientifically literate students especially in the field of earth science. I feel confident that her talent will produce students who will become our next generation of earth scientists.’

For her dedication to advancing Earth and space science, the Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association congratulates Veronika Paluch as the 2016 Teaching Excellence Award recipient.

Award for Teaching Excellence - 2015

Congratulations to Judy Treichler - 2015 Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

Kathy Tait and Judy Treichler

Judy Treichler is an elementary teacher at the 12th and Marion Elementary School  in Reading, Pennsylvania.  Judy loves to teach science to her students and she doesn't let the lack of resources get in her way.  Judy is a grant writer!  She has applied for many educational, science related grants that have benefited hundreds of students at her school.  One of her most recent grants allowed for 200 of her students to take a free trip to Longwood Gardens to learn about pollination.  Her skill at grant writing has funded many projects and trips for her students that might not have otherwise happened.  Judy is always thinking of new innovative ways to bring the world of science to her students.  She sponsors the Science and Garden Club at her school as well as the Trout in the Classroom program.

On a professional level, Judy has attended and actively participated in the summer workshops of the Penn State Earth and Space Science Partnership for the past several years.  Each year she brings a new insight on how to implement the various concepts and activities to those students in an elementary classroom.  She brings all of these ideas back to her school, where she encourages her colleagues to try to incorporate these concepts and activities in their own lesson plans.

Judy is an avid supporter of the Earth and Space Science curriculum throughout all grades and encourages her administrators to join her in this important endeavor,

For her sustained professional and personal dedication to her students, her peers, and the Earth and space science teaching profession as a whole, the Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association congratulates Judy Treichler as our 2015 Teaching Excellence Award recipient. Congratulations, Judy

Award for Teaching Excellence - 2014

Congratulations to Gerard Tyson - 2014 Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

Gerard Tyson and Laura Guertin

Gerard Tyson is a middle school teacher at Northwest Middle School in Reading, Pennsylvania.  He has been teaching Earth and space science for 26 years, and in the words of his nominator: “Gerard lives and preaches Earth science on a daily basis” and is always reading up on new science content and concepts released in the news.  His classes are designed to be very challenging and he continues to push his students.  He has very high expectations and “works his tail off” to get his students to that level.  When Gerard notices a student struggling in his class, he will “go above and beyond to help that student, walking the streets of Reading, going door to door, meeting with the parents of these students.  He discusses where they are struggling and how they can help.”

Gerard not only invests his time and energy in to his students, but in to his own professional development and the development of others.  For the past several years, Gerard has attended summer workshops of the Penn State Earth and Space Science Partnership.  He brings new ideas and content back to his school and then teaches his fellow teachers.  In fact, Gerard has helped introduce a new science curriculum for the middle school classroom, and he runs a daily professional learning community with the 6th grade science department for effective implementation of new and current content and pedagogical approaches.

For his sustained professional and personal dedication to his students, his peers, and the Earth and space science teaching profession as a whole, the Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association congratulates Gerard Tyson as our 2014 Teaching Excellence Award recipient. Congratulations, Gerard.

Award for Teaching Excellence - 2013

Congratulations to Lauren Beal - 2013 Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

Lauren Beal is a middle school teacher at AMY Northwest Middle School in Philadelphia. She has previously taught 7th and 8th grade and is now a 6th grade teacher in the Philadelphia Area School District. Lauren has been teaching for 12 years teaching. At AMY Northwest, Lauren has expanded her roles to reach outside of classroom. She has been the Student Government advisor and has helped bring in new initiatives to the school such as the The Picasso Project.

Lauren is constantly seeking innovative ways to improve the teaching in her science classroom by looking for what is best for her students. In turn, she has been a model for other educators in making her knowledge and experience public to other teachers. She has shared her curricular work on a multitude of levels. Last year, Lauren presented her work at the first annual PAESTA conference with a presentation titled “Claim, Evidence, Reasoning: Helping Students to Construct Scientific Explanations”. She demonstrated leadership as she was only one of five K-12 teachers who submitted a conference proposal. This summer, Lauren co-authored an article in the peer-reviewed journal through the National Earth Science Teachers Association with a submission titled “Introduction to Using the Claims-Evidence-Reasoning Framework in Middle School Science”. Despite the responsibilities of being a new mom, Lauren enthusiastically agreed to plan for yet another presentation at the this year’s PAESTA conference. Her talk is centered around, "What's Your Evidence?" Pushing Students Toward Stronger Scientific Explanations Using the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning Framework”.

Through these efforts, Lauren has demonstrated how she is flexible, open minded, and collaborative in nature. She encourages teachers to be self-reflective and practices this set of mind for her own growth. Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association welcomes Lauren Beal as our 2013 Teaching Excellence Award recipient. Congratulations, Lauren.

Award for Teaching Excellence - 2012

Congratulations to Heather Spotts - Our First Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

At the 2012 PAESTA Conference, we recognized a dedicated Pennsylvania K-12 teacher who has made exemplary contributions to the field of Earth and Space Science education. Congratulations to Heather Spotts, a 6th grade general science teacher from Bellefonte School District, as our first winner of the PAESTA Award for Teacher Excellence!

Heather is in her 8th year teaching 6th grade general science in this rural school district in Centre County. Several years ago, three of the rural districts in central PA partnered together with higher ed faculty from Penn State and Lock Haven to form the "Rural Multidistrict Academic Space Alliance", which has since been renamed the "Academic STEM Alliance" (or ASA).  Heather has been a major partner in the ASA since the beginning, because she is always seeking out opportunities for her students and for herself to enrich their understanding of science.

Heather has also been extremely active in Penn State's Earth and Space Science Partnership and has been serving in the role of a teacher leader during this academic year. Heather has worked to build strong partnerships with her colleagues, and has built the foundation of a professional learning community in her district. She is currently working on a master's degree and feels that her experiences in the partnership, which has included a networking and sharing of ideas with teachers from other districts throughout the state, have strongly influenced her decision to look at how teachers can be agents of change in their districts and how they can be active partners in their own professional development.

For her dedication to the profession of teaching, her leadership in her district, and her efforts to document her work and disseminate it to her fellow professionals throughout PA, we are proud to honor Heather as the first honoree of the PAESTA Award for Teaching Excellence.