Three teachers win $10,000 prizes for excellence in math/science education
Three Hillsborough County Public Schools high school teachers recently won $10,000 each for sharing their energy and enthusiasm for science or mathematics through creative and innovative methods.
They were among 12 teachers in the Tampa Bay area recognized by the Barrett Family Foundation, which recognizes teachers who cultivate student interest and ability in those two fields.
Congratulations to our district’s winners!
Tiffany Oliver, Robinson High School
Oliver teaches IB biology at the South Tampa school. She earned a master’s degree in biology from the University of South Florida (USF) and has spent many years working around the world (St. Maarten, New Zealand, Australia) as a marine biologist. She still continues to conduct research on her favorite group of organisms, echinoderms (starfish, brittle stars, sea urchins).
Oliver started teaching 14 years ago and it was only supposed to be a quick stint while simultaneously conducting research at USF. To her surprise, she found that she loved teaching students.
"I could bring my passion for science and my desire to reach students and create active, meaningful STEM learning experiences that teach them how to work cooperatively to solve problems and think critically like scientists," she shared.
Many students share that they have been inspired to pursue a major or career in a STEM field because of what they’ve experienced in Ms. Oliver's class. "There really is no greater joy as a teacher than knowing I have played a part in impacting students’ future success in that way," she said.
Julie Sackles, Tampa Bay Technical High School
Sackles credits her own teachers for instilling a love of science in her from a young age.
“Since I began teaching 24 years ago, it has been my mission to inspire others in the same way and to become a teacher I would be proud for my own children to learn from,” she said. “I have strived to provide my students with opportunities to connect with nature, hands-on learning experiences, cross-curricular course content and technology-based skills to prepare them for continued education and the workforce.”
At Tampa Bay Tech, she teaches both chemistry and AP Environmental Science. After taking her classes, Sackles hopes students leave as better students but also better global citizens.
"My passion lies in helping students develop a love of science and a curiosity about the world around them,” she wrote in her application for the award. “After completing my AP Environmental Science class, I hope to have fostered a more environmentally-conscientious viewpoint in my students and imparted important skills and knowledge for continued education and careers in the STEM field.”
Sue Traynham, Sickles High School
Take a seat in Traynham’s AP Statistics class and here’s what you’ll hear.
“This is called a Y hat,” she says, pointing to a concept that’s part of her AP Statistics lesson, “because it’s a Y with a hat.”
“I couldn’t just give you the formula,” she tells to her class doing calculations. “You know this class. I have to make you work for it.”
“This is one way. I’m going to show you three ways AP accepts. When you do your homework, pick a way and stick with that way all the time.”
You’ll also hear students helping students, as cooperative learning is a hallmark of her teaching style, one that allows her more time to focus on students who are really struggling to grasp a concept.
Traynham is in her 28th year of teaching, including the last 17 at Sickles. Her application video featured a Jeopardy-style review game aimed at building excitement about math. She teaches Algebra II and AP Statistics. She also oversees the 140-member Mu Alpha Theta math club. About 50 students typically represent Sickles in a variety of math competitions and Sickles is slated to host a state meet in February.
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