Earth Science Teacher of the Year Award

Applications are closed for 2024. Check back next year for another opportunity.

The winner will be announced on or before June 23, 2024. The awardee will be honored at the August 7, 2024 RMAG luncheon to be held in downtown Denver.

In 2000, the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists (RMAG) Foundation instituted a joint award with the RMAG to honor an elementary or secondary school teacher who has promoted teaching of Earth Science to K-12 students in Colorado. The awardee receives a commemorative plaque and a $2000 cash award provided by the RMAG Foundation. The RMAG Foundation also awards the awardee’s school with $2000 designated for its Earth Science program.

The applicant must have a proven record in teaching at an accredited K-12 school in Colorado.

The application package includes four required items:

  1. Completion of the application form including dated signatures from applicant and school administrator
  2. A summary of the course curriculum including:
    • Earth Science Teaching Philosophy
    • Description of your Earth Science course
    • How you and your school will use the award
  3. One letter of recommendation from a school administrator.
  4. One letter of recommendation from a colleague or parent of a student in your class.

2023 Recipients of the K-12 Earth Science Teacher of the Year Award: Shirley Davis and Dr. Yajaira Fuentes-Tauber

The RMAG and the RMAG Foundation are very pleased to announce TWO 2023 Earth Science Teacher of the Year Awardees! The two finalists are Shirley Davis, science teacher at Windsor Charter Academy Early College High School (WCA), Windsor, Colorado and Dr. Yajaira Fuentes-Tauber, science teacher at Rocky Mountain High School, Fort Collins, Colorado. Both personally receive $2000 to further their professional development, and each high school receives $2000 to be used for Earth Science purposes, as directed by each Earth Science teacher awardee.

Out of several applicants, two outstanding teachers rose to the top. The RMAG Foundation generously increased funding to give two awards, like in 2020. One is an early-career teacher; the other a mid-career teacher. Both teach high school, where earth science is not generally taught as a stand-alone course in Colorado.

Shirley Davis

Shirley Davis is a second-year teacher who teaches Earth and Space Science and Planetary Astronomy to grades 9 through 12 students. She uses multiple teaching styles, resources, and materials to ensure each student achieves academic success. She uses labs and projects along with various knowledge checks to increase her students critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills. WCA’s Earth Science course is an extensive class providing students with information about the Earth’s geological processes, past and present, its place in the solar system, natural resources, and the many changes the Earth has under gone including climate change, natural disasters, and tectonic activity. Shirley plans to use award funds to add more learning materials, lab equipment and student activities so she can continue to adequately educate all her students.

Hannah Mancina, Director of High School Education at Windsor Charter Academy, said “One of Shirley’s most impressive strengths is her unique ability to set high expectations for student performance while matching that with unparalleled support.” Additionally, Ms. Mancina stated, “I have observed hundreds of students grow under Shirley’s conscientious watch not only in their mastery of science standards but also in their self-discovery and critical thinking. Repeatedly, students recognize her as a teacher who has helped them towards their path to graduation and as well as a teacher they trust and respect.” 

Parent Holly Stephens, in her letter of recommendation, said “I have witnessed her ability to make complex scientific concepts accessible and comprehensible to students of varying abilities” and “Mrs. Davis fosters a positive and inclusive classroom community. She creates a safe and supportive space where all students feel valued, respected, and encouraged to participate.”

 Ms. Davis receiving the Earth Science Teacher of the Year award at the August 2, 2023 RMAG Luncheon.

Hannah Mancina
Ms. Davis receiving the Earth Science Teacher of the Year award at the August 2, 2023 RMAG Luncheon.
Ms. Davis receiving the Earth Science Teacher of the Year award at the August 2, 2023 RMAG Luncheon.
Dr. Yajaira Fuentes-Tauber

 Dr. Yajaira Fuentes-Tauber has taught high school for 16 years. She applies geoscience in her environmental lessons to prepare students for post-secondary education, the workforce, and citizen engagement. Content explores the interconnectedness of the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Hands-on activities accommodate diverse learning styles, abilities, and needs. Dr. Fuentes-Tauber plans to use award funds to expand access to Earth Science education that promotes stewardship and links to the school’s start-up community garden. 

For the last several years, Dr. Fuentes-Tauber’s students have participated in a stewardship program, Caring for Our Watersheds, which hosts a contest where students prepare a grant proposal addressing the question, “What can you do to improve your watershed?” Her students have had at least one team selected for the finals since 2018, which, as Ivonne Morales at the Poudre Learning Center pointed out, is amazing because her 9-10th grade students compete against 11-12th grade and AP students. Morales also pointed out that Dr. Fuentes-Tauber has been key to making the contest more inclusive by providing real-time feedback to both her students and to the program team and developing resources for her students based on their individual needs. All of which are shared with other teachers to create a more robust program.

Tyler Ann Nickel, Assistant Principal at Rocky Mountain High School, said, “Yajaira’s ability to get her students to work hard and truly believe that they can achieve and be successful in a science class is admirable.” Furthermore, she said that, “Dr. Fuentes-Tauber is passionate about students and about science, has high expectations, is engaging, builds strong relationships with students, has amazing content knowledge, is inventive and organized, and is always looking to learn and grow.” 

With the mission to inspire and educate current and future geoscientists, the RMAG Foundation recognizes the importance of these dedicated teachers who provide earth science education. In honoring them, the RMAG is pleased to encourage and foster interest in STEM careers in general and particularly in earth science. Both teachers were recognized at the August 2 RMAG luncheon and will be given a complimentary one-year membership to the RMAG, funded by the RMAG Foundation. Congratulations!

Dr. Yajaira Fuentes-Tauber

Recent Recipients of the Earth Science Teacher of the Year Award

2022 Lisa Taylor, Bethlehem Lutheran School, Lakewood, CO
2021 Tricia Kearns, Webber Middle School, Ft. Collins, CO
2020 Matt Thomas, Alameda International High School, Lakewood, CO
Merideth Sparks, Craver Middle School, Colorado City, CO
2018 Matthew Sturdivant, Colorado Early Colleges, Fort Collins, CO
2017 Deborah Munson, Platteville Elementary School, Platteville, CO
2016 Julie Mitchell Erie, High School, Erie, CO
2015 Kent Hups, Northglenn STEM High School, Northglenn, CO