EDUCATOR Barbara "Tootie" Black regularly proves that learning science can be exciting for school kids. As a 3rd-grade science teacher at West Teays Elementary School in Putnam County, Black and her students raised salmon every year, from incubating the eggs at the beginning of the school year to feeding and growing the fingerlings until they were ready to be released into a reclaimed stream as the school year approached closure.
"They just seem to have a ball," Black said of her class on a field trip to Kanawha State Forest, where the kids carefully released the fingerlings into Davis Creek. Speaking to Chris Lawrence of Metronews, she said: "This is what learning is. They remember this."
Late last week, Black, who last August became a teaching principal at Hometown Elementary after teaching West Teays 3rd graders for 15 years, was honored by President Barack Obama with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
"Through their passion and dedication, and by sharing their excitement about science, technology, engineering and math, (these teachers) are helping us build a promising future for our children," the President said in a statement announcing the 102 teachers in all 50 states who had been selected.
Black is a great example of teachers who make learning fun.
"Tootie's expertise is science — she's always been very involved in the areas of math and science, and very creative," Putnam County Schools Superintendent Chuck Hatfield told the Gazette's Lydia Nuzum. "She thinks outside of the box, and we encourage that."
Also receiving the honor in West Virginia was 3rd grade teacher Gabrielle Rhodes of Union Elementary School in Buckhannon, Upshur County.
West Virginia University's Brian Anderson, Ph.D., professor in the department of chemical engineering, was also recognized by the president this week, receiving the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers, which recognizes professionals who, early in their research careers, show exceptional potential for leadership.
A Ripley native and graduate of WVU and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Anderson has conducted research in natural gas hydrates and geothermal systems, providing scientific information that can help shape West Virginia's energy future.
West Virginia needs its youth to receive a good education in all subjects, but the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are particularly important for the state to be economically competitive in the coming years.
Congratulations to science teachers Barbara Black and Gabrielle Rhodes and associate professor Brian Anderson for inspiring West Virginia's youth by showing the excitement of STEM.