Thursday, May 21, 2015

Texas Medical Association Science Teacher Award

Ernest Butler, Sarah Butler and Patricia Kassir (left to right)
Patricia Kassir, a Gifted and Talented instructor at The Bendwood School, has won the Texas Medical Association’s highest award for excellence in science teaching.

Kassir, who has taught in Spring Branch ISD for 13 years and was named a district Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2006, is one of only three state educators to win the annual Ernest and Sarah Butler Award for Excellence in Science Teaching.

In addition, she was named recently as a SBISD Teacher of the Year Finalist once again.

TMA awards this top honor to teachers who show personal commitment and great enthusiasm in the area of science instruction. In addition, Kassir and other winners will be awarded a $5,000 cash prize, and their schools a $2,000 curriculum award.

Kassir was honored May 1 in a ceremony at the Hilton Austin. Joining her as state winners were Joseph Morris of All Saints’ Episcopal School, a Fort Worth-based middle school, and Anna Loonam of Houston ISD’s Bellaire High School.

The Bendwood School’s Kassir says that she was “incredulous” when she learned about her state-level achievement.

“My disbelief then turned to euphoria and great satisfaction,” she said recently. “I thought of my own children and of my [Gifted and Talented Grades 3-5] SPIRAL students, and how I often remind them all that hard work, dedication and going an extra mile for the things one is passionate about gives meaning and contentment to our lives.”

In addition to other achievements, all four of Kassir children have graduated from Westchester Academy for International Studies, the district’s charter high school, with International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas. Rice University accepted all four children, and one is a first-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

A 23-year educator, Kassir is currently pursuing her master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of St. Thomas. She holds a bachelor of science degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Houston.

In her recent application for SBISD Teacher of the Year, she wrote this: “I work to challenge my students to push beyond their intellectual limits. This is done through lessons that keep rigor and challenge as a high priority. It is our responsibility to ensure that [students] develop a healthy work ethic and that their intellectual and emotional needs are met. Our nation’s well-being and economic strength depend on it.”

Inside her classroom, GT students delve deeply into biology, human physiology, medical science, forensic science and chemistry. In just one day of instruction, for example, her students may be extracting DNA from strawberries, building DNA key chains with beads, and hearing stories about professional dramas involving some of the world’s greatest scientists.

Texas Medical Association officials contend that honors like the Butler Awards are highly important because only about a third of Texas eighth-graders rate proficient in science, according to a recent report by the National Science Foundation.

“TMA hopes to help improve these numbers by recognizing innovative teachers and providing them resources to continue motivating and engaging students,” the Texas organization states.

View all Excellence in Science Teaching recipients >>

Kassir and other applicants included letters of support and a professional essay as part of the judging process, in addition to biographical and professional materials.

A team of science professionals based at the University of Texas Charles A. Dana Center reviewed applications, and then second stage judging was conducted by a physicians panel serving with the TMA Educational Scholarship, Loan, and Awards Committee.

The TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching are supported by the TMA Foundation through an endowment established by Dr. and Mrs. Ernest C. Butler of Austin.

To learn more about the Texas Medical Association’s Excellence in Science Teaching Awards, please visit the Texas Medical Association website.


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