I hope that you will consider the nomination of a pair of teachers that work together to make math and science come alive for their students. Math teacher Diane Crim brings her enthusiasm for math to school every day. She is brilliant in her ability to help students understand the relevance of math and how it can be used to solve problems. Niki Hack is a most amazing science teacher. Her hands-on, minds-on approach is extremely effective in helping student’s gain deep understanding of the world around them. Not long ago a parent of one of our 7th grade students commented that “students that have Dr. Hack for science know more than most AP Biology students in high school.” The difference is that Dr. Hack’s students understand more than content. They understand the process and this translates into a valuable life skill regardless of what field they choose to pursue.
When these teachers work together, like they currently do at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, their magic can reach incredible heights. Over the past two years they have developed a research project focused on Pika’s in the Uintah and Wasatch Mountains. Math and science are married in a way that allows students to participate in real research that enhances both subject areas. Students apply their math through mapping and graphing of data. On the science end students learn about the intricate relationships between pika’s and climate change. They are both willing to spend many, many hours of their own time to make this a great experience for students. They have taken multiple groups of students to the mountains to observe and record data on pika. They have partnered with a graduate student at the University of Utah and held a “Pika Palooza” at the University in October where students presented their pika projects to biology graduate students and professors.
These two teachers are motivated to a degree that is difficult for most to comprehend. They never settle for anything less than excellence. They make everyone around them, both students and teachers, better. Even when students leave their middle school classes and move into the upper grades (our school is grades 6-12) they keep an eye on how students are doing and continue to provide assistance and advice. The result is that students feel extremely connected to these incredible teachers. Most of the students from our first graduating class last year stay in touch with Ms. Crim and Dr. Hack. We are so lucky to work with them and in a school like ours where about 50% of the students are minorities and over 57% are classified as low income, their positive impact is so very important.