Distinguished High School Mentors

Chemical Engineering Students Thank Their High School Teachers, Principals or Counselors

Each April, our department presents the Distinguished High School Mentor Award at our annual Spring Banquet. This unique honor was developed in 2002 to allow our students to recognize the outstanding high school mentors who have consistently motivated them to strive for excellence and higher achievement including high school teachers, counselors, principals, or ministers, for example. Nominations for this award are accepted by the department's American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Student Chapter Council by November 15th of each year, and awardees are determined by the Department's AIChE Council by December 1st.

Nomination packages include an essay about how the nominee has influenced or inspired students to strive for success, along with brief biographical information. Successful nominees are notified by the beginning of December and contacted regarding their willingness to stand for the award. A maximum of three awards are presented each year. Awardees are ineligible for consideration for two years (meaning that a winner from 2002 would be eligible for consideration again in 2005).

Beginning with the 2006 recipients, the award also includes a donation to the mentor's high school by the Arkansas Academy of Chemical Engineers, which was founded in 2005 to honor outstanding graduates of our department.

Students, please take the time to fill out a nomination form and submit it by the November 15 deadline. This is an excellent way to honor the people who have had a significant and positive impact on your lives. Thank you in advance for your participation.

Mentor Nomination Form

2016 Honorees

Jason Odom, Rowlett High School

Mr. Odom believes that all students are capable of learning, and that it is the responsibility of every educator to facilitate learning. Educators should push every student to achieve his/her highest possible outcome.  Most of all, he believes that teaching is one of the highest callings for any individual. Mr. Odom graduated from Waxahachie High School 1997.  After high School, he attended Tyler Junior College until he transferred to the University of Texas at Tyler, eventually earning a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, in 2001 and then a Master of Science in Mathematics, in 2003. Mr. Odom started teaching at Rowlett High School in 2004, and is still there today.  He has taught every math class except Geometry. He is currently teaching AP Calculus and Pre-Calculus. He takes pride in pushing his students to achieve more than they ever thought that they could.  He loves interacting with his students and the students around the RHS campus.  He simply LOVES being an educator!

David Parsons, Flower Mound High School

Dave Parsons is a 12 year old trapped in a 43 year old body. If anyone is “wasting time” in class, it’s him.  He graduated From Abilene Christian University with a B.S. in Secondary Education.  He dreamed of teaching chemistry, or “the magic science” to high school kids and imbue in them the same wonder he felt as a child when watching old reruns of Mr. Wizard.  But alas, it was not to be…Environmental Science, Geology, Astronomy, Oceanography, Meteorology…all great subjects in their own right, but not The Grail. Next up was Physical Science, then Physics, Pre-AP Physics and then Calculus based AP Physics. Oh, sweet bliss! I had been pining for the “magic science” when all along I hadn’t known the ecstasy of Physics.  “We have the best toys!”  cried Physics…they were right. Since 2003 Dave Parsons has taught countless young minds the joys and mathematical rigor of the science of everyday things. Nowhere can you get away from it. All science stands upon it…and it is a BLAST! (sometimes literally)  If it isn’t, you’re teaching it wrong!

Darbi Stancell, McDonald County High School

Darbi Stancell knew from a young age that she would teach math.  Knowing that there were more lucrative and prestigious jobs for a mathematically strong student never once swayed her opinion. Teachers were her role models and she wanted to share her passion of mathematics and science with others; there was no better way than as a public school teacher. Darbi received her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Pittsburg State University in 1988.  While in college she enjoyed running track and cross country and being a member and later president of the PSU chapter of Kappa Mu Epsilon, the mathematics honor society.  In 2009 she completed her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from William Woods University. She is looking forward to pursuing a Master of Science in Mathematics and desires to teach at the college level upon retiring soon from public education. She has taught mathematics or science in Missouri for 28 years, the last 20 at McDonald County High School in Anderson. Although she enjoys her advanced students, she has taught a variety of courses knowing that all levels deserve the same amount of passion.  Since educators made the difference in her life, she truly has a heart for the gifted and enjoys unlocking the potential not always seen in young students.  She has been a gifted student advisor at MCHS for many years and continually pushes her students to “reach” and dream. Darbi met and married Bruce Stancell in college in 1987, and together they are blessed with a wonderful family of three children:  stepson Trenton and wife Rachel, Kord and wife Chloe, and a daughter Darien.  They currently are enjoying their first grandchild.   Darbi has coached continually during her teaching career and knows that is yet another way to positively influence kids.  She has never once doubted that she made the best career choice and looks forward to work every day.

2015 Honorees

Jennifer Lachowsky, Russellville High School

Jennifer Lachowsky has taught AP Calculus at Russellville High School for the past 4 years and is in her 6th year of teaching mathematics. Through the Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math, Science, and English Grant, she was able to quickly grow in her knowledge of calculus curriculum and pedagogy. Jennifer has been a presenter for Arkansas's AIMS for three years, traveling to various schools in the state to help students prepare for the AP exam. She sincerely hopes to become an AP reader in the future.

Jennifer received her bachelors and later masters in mathematics education at the University of Central Arkansas. During her masters, she was given an internship to teach College Algebra and though her parents would love for her to earn her doctorate and teach at a university, her love of AP Calculus and the students who take it keep her at the high school level. Jennifer describes herself as a little too lackadaisical, more sarcastic than she should be, and can be slightly delusional about the importance of calculus in her students' lives—but she enjoys what she does and tries to make it so that her students do, too.

 Sheryl Waggoner, Southside High School

Sheryl Waggoner had more than a decade of teaching upper level mathematics before joining the Southside High School mathematics faculty in 2007. She currently teaches AP Calculus, Algebra III and Algebraic Connections, and serves as the Mu Alpha Theta Sponsor for the high school. Sheryl is a Razorback alumna and earned her master’s degree in secondary education at Liberty University. Aside from teaching mathematics, her hobbies include reading and running. Sheryl and her husband Russell have three children and are blessed with two granddaughters.

2014 Honorees

Ken Krame, Liberty High School

Ken Kramme began his teaching career in 1970. He received his doctorate from the University of Missouri at Kansas City in 1983. Though he officially retired in 2001, he continues to teach half-time at Liberty High School near Kansas City. AP Chemistry and Physics are his current subjects, but his teaching experience includes biology, earth science, mathematics, philosophy, and even psychology. Dr. Kramme also works part-time for Rockhurst University and the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Among his interests are sports, photography, and traveling. Kramme has visited every state in the United States and every continent. His adventures include two weeks on an icebreaker in the Antarctic Ocean and being marooned on a desert island in the Red Sea.

Michael Trulson, The Highlands School, Irving Texas

Michael Trulson earned his bachelor of arts in general science and both a masters degree and doctorate in biopsychology from the University of Iowa. He completed post-doctoral training in the Neuroscience Program at Princeton University where he was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. After teaching at various high schools, colleges, and universities for 33 years, Trulson settled into his current position as Science Department Chair at The Highlands School in Irving, Texas. Since 2007 he has taught general biology and chemistry, Advanced Placement biology and chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, and psychology at The Highlands School, while concurrently teaching university level online courses in human behavior and development. Dr. Trulson is the recipient of the 2011 Schulz Award, as well as the American Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Education Southwest Regional Award for Excellence in High School Teaching.

David Watkins, Neosho High School

David Watkins began his career at El Dorado Springs High School in Missouri, where he taught for three years. After resurrecting the speech and debate program there, he began teaching at Neosho High School in 1990. While teaching and coaching at Neosho for the past 24 years, he has qualified 217 students to the National Tournament. At the district level, his squads have won the District Sweepstakes Award 12 times in the past 13 years. His coaching has resulted in the national champions in Impromptu and Public Forum Debate and numerous semifinal and quarterfinalists in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and Public Forum Debate. He has also coached state champions in policy debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, and Extemporaneous Speaking.

In addition to his success as a coach, Watkins is regularly asked to teach workshops at both state and local levels. Watkins sees his role in speech and debate as more a teacher than coach and is most proud of the long-term success he has seen from his former students. He and his wife, Laura, who is a 4th grade teacher in the Neosho School District, have a son, Andrew, age 10.

2013 Honorees

Mr. Phillip Baker, Huntsville High School

Phillip Baker is a 1982 graduate of the University of Arkansas with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering.  His industrial career began in 1982 with International Paper Company as a Process Engineer at its Corporate Technical Services Office in Mobile, Alabama.   In 1985 Baker moved to Potlatch Corporation as a Process Engineer at the company’s pulp and paper mill McGehee, Arkansas.  He went on to hold various positions at the mill and in corporate management.  In 1997 he became Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Potlatch’s Minnesota Pulp and Paper Division and in 1999 was named Senior Vice President with overall operating responsibility for the Division. 

In 2002, in response to global consolidation in the pulp and paper industry, Baker oversaw the divestiture of Potlatch’s Minnesota Pulp and Paper Division and retired from his career in industry, moving back to his home state of Arkansas. 

In 2003 he embarked on a second career as a high school teacher teaching AP Chemistry, Physics, and Physical Science at Huntsville High School in Huntsville, AR.  Baker earned National Board Certification in Chemistry in 2009 and in 2010 was named a Distinguished Teacher by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.  In 2013, he received the Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award from Northwestern University.  Baker and his wife, Oteeka, have one son, Aidan, a junior studying economics and computer science at Stanford University.

Mr. Mike Robinson, Fayetteville High School

In 1971 Robinson received his B.S. in Math from Kansas State Teachers College and his M.S. in 1975 from Emporia State University.  He taught seven years in northeast Kansas, 12 years in Saudi Arabia for the Arabian American Oil Company, and two years at Prairie Grove High School before teaching the last 21 years at Fayetteville High School.

Robinson has taught all of the math classes from 7th grade math through AP Calculus, as well as AP Computer Science.  He enjoys golfing, canoeing, and camping.  His wife and three children have always supported him in his efforts of working long hours to help all students learn and appreciate the concepts in math. 

Mrs. Tina Sudkamp, Nevada High School

Ms. Sudkamp received a B.A. in Mathematics from Eastern Illinois University with a concentration in Education and has completed graduate coursework in Gifted Education at the University of Missouri Columbia.  She has lived and taught in Illinois, Texas, and Missouri and taught all levels of Math from 7th grade through Calculus.

This marks Sudkamp’s 18th year of teaching. She is currently teaching Geometry and Gifted Education classes at Nevada High School in Nevada, Missouri. 

She has a wonderful husband, Scott, and two sons, Luke and Ben.  She also attends Rinehart Christian Church, and enjoys teaching a Sunday school class with her husband and helping with youth programs.

2012 Honorees

Mrs. Jill Cooper, Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts

After receiving her Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Henderson State University, Jill Cooper went on to obtain an MS from the University of Arkansas.

Cooper began her chemistry career as a senior scientist for Atlantic Research Corporation in Camden, Arkansas. At that time, ARC was one of the largest manufacturers of solid propellants. She worked directly with the Multiple Launch Rocket System, which became known as "Steel Rain" during the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq. During her time at ARC, a new solid propellant was developed for the burgeoning industry of air bags for automobiles. In her 18 years of employment with ARC, Cooper became Lab Manager.

In 2002, she began her second career as a chemistry instructor at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts (ASMSA) in Hot Springs. ASMSA is a public residential high school for academically advanced 11th and 12th graders. Cooper teaches general chemistry, quantitative and qualitative analytical chemistry and mentors students with their science fair projects. In 2012, she received the Science Fair Advisor of the Year Award at the West Central Regional Science Fair.

Mrs. Kaye Minter, Magnolia High School

Kaye Minter has taught at the high school level for nearly 20 years in both Arkansas and Georgia. She currently serves as the Lead Advanced Placement Science teacher at Magnolia High School.

Prior to joining its faculty, Minter served as the Science Department Chair at Stamps High School, in Stamps, Arkansas, as well as taught various science courses at Arkadelphia and Gordon County High Schools and worked in the Botany and Biology labs at Southern Arkansas University, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1982.

In addition to teaching, Minter also serves as a trainer for Laying the Foundation, which is a division of the National Math and Science Initiative dedicated to improving the teacher corps in the United States. She was recently received Magnolia High's "Home Run Teacher" award for her support of student academics and activities both in and outside the classroom.

Mrs. Patti Raouf, Ruskin Senior High School

Patti Raouf was a Family and Consumer Science Teacher in the Hickman Mills School District from January 2000 to November 2011. She taught at Ervin Junior High for three years and then moved to Hickman Mills Senior High School until 2009, when the district consolidated the two high schools and moved to Ruskin High School to finish her years in teaching. She taught basic Family and Consumer Science, Family Relations, Child Development, and Nutrition and Wellness.

Raouf grew up in a family with 9 children. She put herself through school at Southeast Missouri State University earning a BA in Home Economics with a Family and Child Specialization and an AA in Early Childhood Education. In 1985 she became a Social Worker for the state of Missouri in Jackson County. In 2000 she entered into the Alternative Teacher Certification Program at Central Missouri University and began working for the Hickman Mills School District before completing her Master in Education Administration in 2003.

Raouf had been married to her husband, Ali, for 25 years and they have twin sons, Christopher and Steven, who are 22 years old. Since she retired this year, she has worked on her hobby of making fused glass art and jewelry and been able to read and relax.

2011 Honorees

Joy Hatfield-Couch, Claremore High School

Joy Hatfield-Couch, or "Mrs. H-C" as students like to call her, was nominated for the passion with which she teaches chemical sciences. "She is a very dynamic teacher and believes in the importance of chemistry knowledge in everyday life," wrote co-nominator Lauren Woods, a chemical engineering graduate student. "She inspired a passion in me for chemical sciences simply by being passionate about it herself." 
Co-nominator Alex Lopez, who graduated with a BSChE this spring, added, "The lessons that Mrs. H-C taught will help me continue to succeed throughout my future career." 
Hatfield-Couch graduated with a B.S. Ed. in chemistry from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., in 1993 and will receive her M.S. Ed. in educational administration in 2011 from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. She has been teaching at Claremore High School for 14 years and has been the chair of the science department since 2003. Hatfield-Couch teaches physical science, chemistry I, Pre-AP chemistry and, her favorite, AP chemistry. She enjoys traveling with her husband and two sons during the summer months.

George Spencer, Fayetteville High School

George Spencer was nominated for his ability to inspire his students to learn about the world around them and to always keep an open mind. "At an age where priorities are video games and lunch plans, Mr. Spencer introduced and kept us interested in ideas like the spins of electrons and the art of manipulating matter," his nominator, chemical engineering junior Turner Tomlinson, stated. "Chemistry, for him, was never a class; it was a lifestyle." 

Spencer has taught in the Fayetteville school system for 25 years, 24 of those at Fayetteville High School. He has taught AP chemistry at Fayetteville High School since 1997. Spencer graduated from Hendrix College in 1975 and the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1978. In 1984 he returned to the University of Arkansas to complete course work in chemistry and education.

Don Highfill, Ozark High School

Don Highfill was nominated for his versatility in teaching the sciences and for inspiring his students to learn and solve problems. "He is the ideal teacher for a student who wants to be an engineer, because he stresses the problem solving process the way that so few high school teachers do anymore," wrote his nominator Howard Heffington, Jr., who graduated with Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering this spring. "He has the ability to teach the brightest, and the patience to teach students that struggle."

Highfill graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville in 1978 and began teaching middle school math at Ozark Public Schools that same year. In 1979, he moved to Ozark High School, where he has spent the last 32 years teaching anatomy, physics in context, honors physics, biology, earth science and physical science. Highfill currently teaches anatomy, physics in context and honors physics.

2010 Honorees

Brian Arenson, Bishop Kelley High School

Brian Arenson has been changing lives at Bishop Kelley High School for more than 15 years, according to Anne Ziegler, who nominated him for the award. Arenson is the Science Department Chair at Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa, Okla., where he has been teaching for 27 years. Arenson was nominated for his ability to help students succeed by giving them the tools they need to advance their academic careers.

Upon entering his AP Chemistry class, Ziegler was thrown into one of the most difficult classes of her high school career--and fell in love with the subject. "No other class prepared me for the work of college classes more than his did," Ziegler said. "He always pushed us to do our best work; his tests were challenging and required you to learn the material, not just memorize it...To this day, I understand the basics of chemistry thanks to Mr. Arenson, and I try to not only learn the material in all of my classes, but to retain it as well for future use.

Danny Fuller, formerly of Parkview Arts & Science Magnet School

Danny Fuller was nominated by Alexander Kreps for his devotion to teaching and chemistry, a devotion that influenced Kreps to become a chemical engineer. While at Parkview, Fuller oversaw the science department and advised students on their senior projects. Although retired, Fuller currently works as the lab manager for the Department of Chemistry at Hendrix College. Fuller also received this award in 2006.

2009 Honorees

Melissa Donham, Central High School

Melissa Donham began teaching at Central High School in 1997 after briefly teaching in Tennessee. In 1998, Donham earned a Master of Science in Secondary Education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1998. She currently serves as Central High School's Science Department Chair, teaches Pre-AP Biology I and regularly tutors students.

Hannah Lintag nominated Donham for the Distinguished High School Mentor Award to show her gratitude--and indebtedness--toward Donham. "Whatever uncertainty I have in my pursuits today, it disappears when I reflect on what I was able to do with her guidance and confidence in me," Lintag said. "Truly, I owe my steadfastness in my achievements to Melissa Donham--a person most deserving of any and every distinction for being an essential part in my success."

Sandra Dunlapformerly of Wonderview High School

After completing her masters degree, Sandy Dunlap began teaching at Wonderview High School in Hattieville, Ark., where she felt students would benefit most from her knowledge. Throughout the years Dunlap's former students praised her for encouraging them to learn and for fighting to improve academics at the school, including teaching calculus to students during her prep hour--at no additional pay--to provide students the additional challenge when the school's budget could not pay for the course.

Ashley Smith and two other students, Nikki Hampton and Whitney Hensley, nominated Dunlap for the Distinguished High School Mentor Award in gratitude for inspiring others to follow their dreams. "One of my last wishes before I graduate is to recognize one person who has inspired me in so many ways to continue in my growth as a person and to achieve higher expectations for myself," Smith said.

Roberta Watts, Lake Hamilton High School

Roberta Watts began teaching at Lake Hamilton High School after graduating from the University of Arkansas with both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Natural Sciences. Watts has taught AP Chemistry since 1990, when the school first offered the course, and now serves as the Lead AP Science teacher. Watts has received several awards for her excellence in teaching, including the American Chemical Society's award for Outstanding Central Arkansas High School Chemistry Teacher four times.

Natalie Thibodeaux nominated Watts for the Distinguished High School Mentor Award because of her perseverance and ability to push students to do their best, and because Watts' ability to challenge her thinking inspired her to pursue a degree in chemical engineering.

2008 Honorees

Betty J. Busby, Pocahontas High School

Betty Busby has been teaching science for more than 35 years. She teaches a variety of science and math classes including physical science, biology and anatomy and physiology. Busby received a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master's degree in Biology from Arkansas State University.

Msgr. Lawrence A. Frederick, Catholic High School

Msgr. Frederick has been a high school teacher for more than 40 years and says that he is still learning how to teach. Msgr. Frederick received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from St. Louis University, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, Graduate Studies in Theology from St. John's Seminary and a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Arkansas.

Roger Sides, Neosho High School

Roger Sides has been teaching high school chemistry for more than 33 years, the last 25 of which were in Neosho, Mo. Sides received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry prior to earning a Master's degree in Science Education from Kansas State University.

2007 Honorees

Brad Cast, Union High School

Brad Cast graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1985. He has been teaching for more than 21 years and has been teaching AP Chemistry for the past six years. He has twice received a nomination for the Siemens Top Advanced Placement Teacher award.

Kristin Jackson, Harrisonville High School

Kristin Jackson graduated from (Southwest) Missouri State University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Education in Biology and Chemistry. She has been teaching Chemistry I and II for 11 years and AP Chemistry for the last five years. She is the 2007-2008 Harrisonville School District Educator of the Year and a finalist for the Missouri State Teacher of the year (2007-2008).

Robert Mayes, Searcy High School

Robert Mayes began teaching at Searcy High School in 1990 after graduating Magna Cum Laude from Harding University with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, with minors in Physics and Chemistry. Mayes has taught Physics at Harding University in the summer as an adjunct professor since 1999, in addition to teaching Physics, Calculus and Pre-Calculus at Searcy High School.

2006 Honorees

George Remenar, Eureka Springs High School

George Remenar has the reputation of being the toughest teacher at his small high school, but at the same time he pushes his students to do their best. His nominator says, "For the many hours that I was in his [classes], it really did not seem like a 'classroom,' but rather an environment that stimulated me to think." He added, "Mr. Remenar was the teacher that made me see that limitless things could be reached if I strived to meet my goals." Outside of school, Mr. Remenar spends time reading, working on and riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and spending time with his family.

Sherry Suit, Ozark High School

Sherry Suit shares her passion for learning with her students and encourages them to be their best. At a time when students get overwhelmed or bored with mathematics and the sciences, her nominator believes that "…more teachers like Mrs. Suit are needed who are passionate about what they do and who make learning fun and interesting." Suit also leads her students to work for more than just a good grade; they work for knowledge.

2005 Honorees

Gary Ford, Southside High School

Gary Ford was nominated because of the passion with which he teaches biology. "I remember more about the things I learned in his class than any other subject in high school," read one nomination. Not only was his teaching style entertaining, but reportedly, everyone in the nominating student's class received high marks on the advanced placement exam.

Ford graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in zoology from the University of Arkansas in 1978, and received his Masters in Education from Southern University in Louisiana. He enjoys gardening and oversees the nature habitat at the school. Ford has taught for 25 years, 15 at Southside High School.

Jim Townley, Southside High School

Jim Townley, already a Distinguished Mentor recipient in 2002, had inspired many students to pursue an education in chemistry by making it fun and interesting. One student stated, "His method of teaching made us easily understand the complicated subject, and in the end we all succeeded."

Townley attained his BSE from Arkansas State Teacher's College and his MS from the University of Oklahoma, and spent 14 years overseas working for the federal government. He has coached baseball for the past 26 years. Townley currently has one son in medical school and another son at the University of Arkansas.

2004 Honorees

Leslie Brodie, Van Buren High School

At the spring banquet, Leslie Brodie received the Distinguished High School Mentor Award from chemical engineering students Christopher Cox, Natalie Harris and Sakura Phansiri. The students nominated their former teacher for the award, which is sponsored by the department.

In their nomination essay, the students wrote that Brodie, their advanced placement chemistry teacher and robotics coach, was a respected teacher and friend, listening to problems and showing a genuine interest in the lives of her students. She was instrumental in encouraging her students to pursue a career in the sciences, particularly chemical engineering.

"Any time we needed her, she was there," the group wrote in the essay. "Without Mrs. Brodie, we would not be in the chemical engineering program."

Mike Dykes, DeQueen High School

Summer Scott, a chemical engineering student at the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas, says one former teacher holds a special place in the hearts of all students at DeQueen High School. So she nominated Mike Dykes, a chemistry, physics and physical science teacher at DeQueen, for the Distinguished High School Mentor Award, sponsored by the UA chemical engineering department.

Scott wrote in her essay that Dykes is the kind of teacher that every student hopes to have, often the first teacher to arrive and the last to leave. "Not only was he concerned with our performance and comprehension of ideas discussed in his class, he would ask about the things we were learning in other classes so that he could apply what we were learning to those topics," she wrote. "He went out of his way to teach concepts in a way that could be understood by all and he would make sure that he was available outside of class to offer his assistance if someone didn't quite understand."

But Dykes' classes weren't all work and no play, according to Scott's essay. "Sure, his classes were the hardest in school, but you couldn't help but laugh at his unorthodox teaching methods and the large cloud of chalk dust that surrounded him at all times. When students go back to visit, it's no coincidence that the first room they stop by is Mr. Dyke's."

James Njengere, Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences

James Njengere, chemistry, botany and advanced placement environmental science teacher at Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences, received the Distinguished High School Mentor Award from chemical engineering students Crystal Hall and Ron Cardwell at the department's spring banquet. The students nominated their former teacher for the award, which is sponsored by the UA chemical engineering department.

The students wrote in their nomination essay that Njengere, a native of Nigeria, taught with great passion and a deep concern for the intellectual development and well-being of his students. "He taught us that any obstacle can be overcome and that any goal is within reach. We attribute much of our interest in science and engineering to this brilliant and compassionate man." Njengere is also involved with student activities and organizations outside the classroom, including the Honor Society, Beta Club and the annual EnviroThon national competition. Njengere spent several years separated from his wife and children while studying for a doctoral degree at Louisiana State University. They were reunited last year.

2002 Honorees

Debbie Bilyeu, Greenwood High School

Debbie Bilyeu teaches advanced placement chemistry I and II at Greenwood High School and was recently involved with the planning of a new science building. In his nomination essay, senior Joshua A. Clark wrote, "I can think of no other person (outside of my parents) who has had the patience and strength to foster within me the desire for knowledge and the skills necessary to pursue my chemical engineering degree."

Jim Roberds, Blytheville High School

Jim Roberds teaches biology and zoology at Blytheville High School. One of Roberds' notable qualities is the way he inspires his students. Junior Grant Parker stated simply, "He helped me to see the world in a whole new light…this inspired me to learn more and to push myself."

Jim Townley, Southside High School

Jim Townley teaches the advanced placement chemistry at Southside High School in Fort Smith. He has sparked several students' interest in chemical engineering. "Without his encouragement and dedication to teaching, I would not be where I am today," freshmen Kelly Houser and Grant Johnson wrote. Senior Laney Philpott (seen in above picture) wrote, "Mr. Townley was there with the encouragement that I needed to get started."