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.
Dana Goins, Fort Smith Southside High School
"I guess that it was in my genes. My grandmother was a math teacher for forty years in central Arkansas. My mother served in elementary libraries for over twenty years. It was destiny. I have been blessed to teach every grade - kindergarteners through seniors in high school. I think that gave me an advantage to teaching, especially in high school. I was aware of what math skills needed to be mastered before going to the next level math and could adjust my teaching to the needs of my students.
I have been blessed with amazing students over my thirty-three years of teaching and am so fortunate that I’ve gotten to see their growth into adulthood and their professions. After spending the last ten years of preaching to students how important understanding Statistics can be to any college major, I have been getting many confirmations that it IS a useful tool to have in college! Even one student is getting her doctorate in Statistics.
Mike Jackson, Farmington High School
I went to Missouri State University in Springfield, MO, for my bachelors in chemistry education, and I got my Masters in Educational Leadership from University of Arkansas. I’ve been teaching science in Farmington for fifteen years, and I’ve taught freshman physical science through Advanced Placement Chemistry and Advanced Placement Physics. Since 2016, I have worked with the College of Engineering’s POETS (Power Optimization for Electro Thermal Systems) Research Center in a Research Experience for Teachers program. I have the opportunity to place high school students with a strong aptitude for science and engineering into graduate level summer research positions.
My wife, Laura, and I have been married for fourteen years, and we have lived in Fayetteville for all that time. We began teaching four days after our wedding, and we have taught at the same school ever since.
Jessica Shurts, Maize High School
I am very blessed to have found my passion in life and share that with students everyday in the classroom. People always told me I would be a great teacher, but I was determined to become an optometrist and not set foot in a high school again. After job shadowing an optometrist, I realized that being in an office was not for me. So, I started looking at the activities I enjoyed and realized that I loved teaching swimming lessons, working as a Junior Leader in 4-H, and helping in my community with any activity related to coaching and teaching kids. Math had always been my favorite subject in school, but I was drawn to the hands-on lab environment of a science classroom. I graduated from Kansas State University with a BS in Biology (1998) and Secondary Education (1998) along with my MS in Educational Curriculum (2003).
Windi Acord, Ozark High School
I grew up playing sports. My summers were spent on a softball field and my winters
inside of a basketball gym. Luckily this led to an extended career in college as a scholarship
athlete. Through this invested time, I have evolved into a passionate coach/educator who deeply
appreciates the lessons in life that athletics bring. The people who have impacted my life the
most have been my coaches and my teammates. It is this impact that drives my philosophy in
interacting with student athletes. Although winning deems necessary, I value more, the
impression I leave upon my kids and how that can serve them in the game of life.
I have been teaching art and coaching for 22+ years. 19 of these have been at Ozark where I
am currently coaching cross country and assisting in volleyball. I graduated with my BSE in Art
Education from the University of Central Arkansas in 1996 and completed my Masters in
Education from Harding University in 2003. My husband Scott and I reside in Cecil, and we have
three awesome kids: Taelor, Tanner and Tallie. Whenever I get the chance, I share about Jesus
through my lay servanthood of the United Methodist Church. I love running, praising and
creating and encourage others to do the same.
Travis Fink, Har-Ber High School
When I started college, my goal was to become an engineer so I could design and create things that would make a positive impact on the lives of others. While I did earn my degree in Biological Engineering from the University of Arkansas, I did not realize that teaching was the profession into which I would go. After 8 years of working with students at Har-Ber High School, I have found that teaching has been the perfect fit for me. I discovered that I have a passion for helping students learn and getting them excited about understanding mathematics. While I still love the idea of engineering, that now looks like designing and creating lessons that engage students mathematically. At home in my free time, I do enjoy woodworking which satisfies my itch to still be an engineer. I have loved teaching and I have been blessed to have worked with some of the most outstanding students I could ever imagine. Teaching has been a wonderful profession, however, I could not have been successful without the constant support of my wonderful wife, Natalie. Through all of the highs and lows of my teaching career, she has been the source of continual love and encouragement. Together we are spending most of our time chasing around our sweet little one year old boy, Elliott.
Ryan Cook, Prairie Grove High School
I love the opportunity to invest in young adults. For 10 years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve a school district and invest in the future of student’s lives while educating them in STEM classes. Starting out in the engineering department at the University of Arkansas, I never would have imagined teaching as a career. Around 19, I starting feeling the call to invest in the lives of our younger generations. Following this calling, I moved to Florida, thinking I would never be involved with engineering again, and graduated from Southeastern University. After six years of working in different fields, I realized that the vocation of teaching was the avenue that would fulfill this calling in my life. And ironically got back into engineering… teaching it this time. Imparting anything valuable, especially knowledge, skills, and kindness into the lives of others is easily my favorite part of every role I play. I've always said I'm not here to make you a math or engineering nerd. I'm here to help you learn to become a better person and to help students be better problem solvers. My most important role in life is the role of investing. Whether it's in myself, my marriage and my beautiful wife Natalie, my children (Jaelyn-21, Brenna-15, Cole-13, Stella-7), my future, my finances, my friends, colleagues, my students..... it’s investing. I'm always trying to find ways to impart knowledge or love. I feel like my time outside of teaching has really helped me in my teaching. While working in construction, I spent all my time problem solving, working with others, and time managing. When in youth ministry I spent all my time doing these same things, just through a different outlet. Both of these things really helped me with my communication skills and classroom management. I feel like I communicate well on a personal level, while leading students to where they need to be, whether they know where that is or not. The time management part I still struggle with, but I am blessed enough to have an opportunity to improve in that aspect every single day.
Donna Mitchell, Prairie Grove High School
"I have had the privilege to teach math to high school students for 18 years; 6 of those being in Oklahoma with the last 12 years being at Prairie Grove High School. I currently teach Algebra II, Pre-AP Algebra II, and Pre-calculus. Igniting a passion for mathematics and helping students to see math as a tool to be used rather than an obstacle to avoid is my mission. I use the growth mindset as a theme in my classroom to help students value the process of learning. Challenging questions, making mistakes and learning from them, and struggling through learning are building blocks I encourage to build a foundation for future learning. I also enjoy working with students in extracurricular activities; I coach our high school quiz bowl and ACE teams, assist the junior high quiz bowl team, and am the National Honor Society sponsor. I also volunteer to help other clubs/activities. These experiences have helped me to build greater relationships with my students, parents, fellow colleagues, and the community.
I graduated with a BSE from John Brown University. I have been happily married for 22 years and am blessed with three wonderful children, Aryana, Luke, and Kade. My husband, Tony, is a principal and therefore my critical friend as a fellow educator. Life has been full of surprises, but God has always been there to help me through each and every stage."
David Myrick, Arkansas Arts Academy
I attended Huntsville High School in Huntsville, AL, then followed that up with an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Secondary Education from Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS. My first teaching job has been my only teaching job, and all of my years in education have taken place at Arkansas Arts Academy, although it has been called several other names throughout the ten years I have been employed. I have had the opportunity to teach Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra III, Pre-calculus, and A.P. Calculus. I have taught many students from the time they were first-year students all the way through their senior year, including multiple siblings.
Belinda Hendley, Malvern High School
In high school I was strong in choir and drama, which encompassed making costumes and designing sets. My high school counselor told me I had no aptitude in math and would never need algebra. I worked as a jewelry designer and appraiser for 20 years as I raised my daughter. One day, I realized that I utilized math every single day and actually loved it. When my daughter took algebra in middle school, I did some online classes (90’s math CD programs), and enjoyed the concepts. I enrolled in college at the same time as my daughter, and I took every remedial math class available. She and I earned our bachelor’s degree at the same time; hers is in cellular biology and mine in physics. Then I decided to attend one more year to get my master’s degree in teaching. I love teenagers, and have enjoyed slogging them through the math contained in science for eight years in chemistry and physics.
Stacey McAdoo, Little Rock Central High School
Stacey James McAdoo is a phenomenal award winning educator who is best known for her deep motivational connection with her students. She has been noted by administration, colleagues, and students alike for her leadership qualities. With Teacher of the Year nominations and awards, local educator acknowledgements, and droves of students who tearfully hug her with appreciation, Mrs. McAdoo is considered a school, district, and community resource and asset. Although she is in the position of an Oral Communication instructor and AVID Coordinator at Little Rock Central High School, Stacey does not teach a subject; she teaches children. She holds a bachelors in Professional & Technical Writing and a Masters of Art in Teaching, is ESL Endorsed, a workshop facilitator, and an educational consultant. In addition to her full time position in the LRSD, she is also a respected poet and community leader. Despite all the titles that she holds, the one she is proudest of is her position as a mother. Stacey truly believes that all children can learn, deserve to learn and want to learn. Her guiding principle in the classroom is, "Is this what I would want for my children?". And because of her deep connection/commitment to her calling, she is affectionately called "Momma Mc" by her students.
LeAnna Taylor, Birch Kirksey Middle School (previously, Huntsville High School)
From the moment LeAnna Taylor was a young girl, she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She would even play “school” with her family and friends. However, it wasn’t until her high school years that she realized exactly what subject area she wanted to focus on. Surrounded by master teachers at Rogers High School, Taylor knew her calling was to be an English teacher. With hard work and dedication, in 2006 Taylor earned a scholarship to play basketball at Lyon College, and then transferred to the University of Arkansas. Taylor is a 2010 graduate of the University of Arkansas with a B.S. in Fine Arts. Directly following her graduation, Taylor enrolled into the Masters of Arts and Teaching Program at the University of Arkansas with a focus on English in the Secondary Classroom. She graduated in 2011 with her Master of Arts and Teaching. In 2011, Taylor was hired at Huntsville High School as a teacher of first-year English, sophomore English, and Pre-AP sophomore English. The following two years, Taylor continued to teach Pre-AP sophomore English, but embarked on a new journey of teaching junior English and AP Language and Composition. Her years at Huntsville High School were full of memories with colleagues and students that she will never forget. In 2014, Taylor moved on to a new endeavor at Kirksey Middle School in Rogers, Arkansas where she taught and is currently teaching sixth grade English and Reading. She has enjoyed teaching all grade levels, and she truly believes all of her experiences have shaped her into the teacher she is today. Taylor enjoys running, yoga, reading, playing with her dog, Gracie, and doing anything outdoors. Her husband, Levi Taylor, and son, Liam Taylor, have always been an inspiration for her, and they have always been fully supportive of her efforts of working long hours to make sure all students learn and achieve their highest potential. Taylor is excitedly expecting her second child in August 2017.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Dunlap, formerly 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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," first-year students 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."