Dawn Williams and Donna Rowlett of Scott County Schools and Jinx Rasmussen of Bristol Virginia Schools recently brought home three of six state teaching awards from the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST).
The honors – called Recognition in Science Education (RISE) Awards – were rewarded based on a number of criteria, including innovation in lesson planning, hands-on activities and community involvement.
“You’re awarded for doing something you’d do anyway, without the award,” Williams said. “The award, it’s nice because you’re at least recognized, but you’d do it anyway.”
Williams received the RISE Award for Earth science, Rasmussen for middle school science and Rowlett for biology at VAST’s annual Professional Development Institute in November.
The teachers were up against science educators from top-notch school systems across the state of Virginia, including Fairfax, Alexandria and Virginia Beach schools.
“We don’t have those resources like the bigger school systems do,” Rowlett said, “so it was a big deal to bring half those awards this year home to Southwest Virginia.”
In addition to receiving a RISE Award, Rowlett was nominated and elected to serve as VAST’s Region VII director, which covers Southwest Virginia. In that role, she hopes to educate local teachers on the free workshops available to them, which can help them become recertified.
“She can finally be a voice that we can use here,” Williams said, “so that’s a great thing, a great teaching resource for us.”
Moving forward, all three women plan to remain active in local, state and national science programs and workshops. They added that the community’s support has been pivotal to their success.
“It’s amazing how the community comes forth, even though we don’t have that industry and those corporations that can give the backing and the resources,” Rowlett said. “The community will really come through anytime they can.”