This year I have the privilege of serving as chairperson of the NABT Awards Committee. I’ve served on the committee off and on of several years, and that usually means spending time in late Spring organizing a review committee to look over application packets that have been submitted by nominees for one of the various awards offered by NABT. I don’t mind telling you that I always learn a lot from this process. Quite frankly, the applications (and the applicants) for these awards are remarkable and I always learn a great deal about what is some of the best teaching practice going on the country.
This year I am facilitating of the selection of the Biology Educator Leadership Scholarship (BELS). This program brings together financial contributions from NABT members and generous support from PASCO to offer a scholarship to a deserving young biology teacher in pursuit of a graduate degree (in this case “young” is defined as someone who has less than 5 years experience as a classroom teacher without regard to their actual age). To say there is a need for this program is an understatement. There are a lot of great new teachers out there trying to make a place for themselves and their families while working to bring high quality science to their students. Most of you reading this can probably tell stories of the sacrifices you went through early in your career and can therefore sympathize with their plight. Some of those choices may have included delaying or not pursuing further education. And that would be a shame for these folks, especially when you look at the quality they are bringing to the profession so early in their careers.
I am inspired by their stories and excited about the possibilities they offer for the future. On the whole, they are talented, resourceful, dynamic and energetic. They are the people who will finally put to rest the old disparagement of “…those that can’t, teach”. These people can, and do, and will for many years to come. They are another sign of the times, where a single word, HOPE, played a large part in summing up a winning Presidential campaign and prompted a shift in the mood of this country. Although times are difficult for so many, our BELS applicants included, there is hope for the future and for this profession and organization. The BELS award is NABT’s investment in this hope and through our contributions to the scholarship and PASCO’s sponsorship, it will pay dividends to students and teachers for years to come.