A class of their own

3rd January 1997 at 00:00
Victoria Neumark assesses what it takes to be a TESASE Science Teacher of the Year, and introduces the contenders for the awards

Judges will be looking for a teacher who shows outstanding classroom ability and who has an infectious enthusiasm for the subject. Skill in communicating and the ability to motivate students of all abilities and aptitudes to promote effective learning are very important."

These are the guidelines for choosing the TESASE Science Teachers of the Year and the judges this year were so overwhelmed that they had to choose two winners in the secondary category.

The award was set up in 1993 to give, as Betty Preston from the Association for Science Education says, "a positive boost" to science teaching in schools. Sponsorship for the secondary award from the Association if the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and for the primary award from Pfizer has been generous, offering Pounds 100 to each of 12 regional winners and their school, with Pounds 500 to the winners in each category and Pounds 300 to their school. Entrants can be nominated by anyone, but must have back-up references.

Science teachers may feel in need of some good news. The awards, aimed at celebrating excellence in the classroom, try to reward good practice. For the ASE, the professional body for science teachers, the award is another way of supporting teachers and helping them to teach science.

For Pfizer, sponsors of the primary award, it is, says John Adams, academic liaison co-ordinator at Pfizer and an ex-science teacher, a way of stimulating a key area to seed future scientists.

Pfizer is also involved in science teaching in East Kent, where it is based. For a long time it has offered free materials for teachers as well as careers advice and visits to science sixth-formers. More recently, small annual grants of Pounds 75 for specific projects in the 90 primary schools in the area have raised the profile of science, as have visits by local Years 1 and 2. ("They look like the seven dwarfs in their white lab coats," says John Adams.) Pfizer scientists visit schools in return. There is a local award of Pounds 5, 000 for each of two schools within a 10-mile radius of the plant. The national award widens out these initiatives and Pfizer is "very pleased" with its popularity.

"Kids," says John Adams, "get an enormous buzz from their teacher being recognised."

Science teachers, on the other hand, seem overly modest. That is the conclusion which Libby Steele of ABPI draws from falling entries in the secondary science teacher award. Although association is keen to support teachers, it is withdrawing from the award and, instead, is offering three kinds of extra in-service training for teachers. ABPI will give up to 30 teachers a chance to have Inset in using primary, secondary or career-choice materials.

Member companies of the ABPI will host the events and will supply free materials for schools. This project will, Libby Steele hopes, reach the teachers too shy to compete for the award.

ABPI is "delighted to have been involved" for the past three years and Pfizer is pleased to continue its involvement. But perhaps the most delighted ones are the pupils of those teachers whose enthusiasm turns them on to science as, says one, "a fun subject and interesting".

The awards will be presented today at the ASE annual meeting at the University of Birmingham

The winning teachers are featured on pages 19 and 20 of this issue

Further details of the awards and nomination forms from the ASE, College Lane, Hatfield, Herts AL10 9AA

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