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Teacher earns science award

Posted: October 14, 2011 5:30 p.m.
Updated: October 17, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Camden Middle School teacher Valerie Willis thought it was a big honor to be nominated for the 2011 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award and was thrilled to earn the top award for South Carolina.  So when she learned that she also received the honor for the whole Southeast region, she was even more flattered.

“At a time when the importance of earth science is increasing but the attention paid to it is just beginning to catch up with the need, it is encouraging to encounter teachers such as [Willis] who do so much to bring earth science the recognition it deserves,” said Clemson University emeritus professor John Wagner.

Wagner nominated Willis for the award and serves as the state coordinator for the National Association of Geoscience Teachers who sponsor the award along with the South Carolina Science Council. 

This is the first time in 12 years that the South Carolina winner has also won the regional competition.

Willis has taught earth science for the past eight years and constantly searches for new ways to engage kids in the classroom. She incorporates multiple intelligence strategies in her teaching which include hands-on and virtual labs, research-based projects, 3-D models, drawings and computer based software to encourage student creativity.

Students leave her classroom with tools to guide their inquiring minds, an awareness of our precious resources and what needs to be done to protect them.

“If I am not exploring the land, I am swimming in the sea,” Willis explained.  “I love our planet Earth and feel very strongly about preserving all that is outdoors. Earth is grandiosely amazing, and I am a firm advocate of environmental education.”

For the past three years, Willis has worked with the school’s Environmental Club to sponsor cell-phone collection drives. She received the Golden Apple Award for bringing hands-on gem mining to her school and was selected to attend the Santee Cooper-Energy Educators Institute in 2009.

Willis is a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, and was chosen by Clemson University to attend the Discover Carolina/SC Life Summer Field Course.

“Mrs. Willis is a very hard working teacher who strives to get the most out of her students,” said Camden Middle Principal Jeff Jordan. “She is certainly deserving of this award.” 

She will be officially recognized during the SC Science Council’s annual awards ceremony next month.

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