The Robert E Yager Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes excellence and innovation in the field of science education. This award acknowledges teachers who share Robert Yager's passion for education and continued professional development. This award also honors Robert Yager's effort to make excellent science education accessible to students of the 21st century and beyond. Awardees will have exhibited excellence and innovation in the field of science education, and embody the mission statement of NSTA. Six awardees are selected annually with one also being selected as the Yager Scholar. ISTA's own Kristin Rademaker was honored as an awardee and the Yager Scholar at the NSTA Congress on Science Education this past July.
Kristin Rademaker is a science teacher at Harlem High School in Machesney Park, IL. Teaching through phenomena allows Kristin to engage her students and get them figuring out the science behind what happened, sparking natural curiosity to figure things out. Once the phenomena is introduced she uses the science practices and other strategies that allow students to dig into what they know, figure out what they don't know, and fix the things they thought they knew. Rademaker focuses on students learning science through working together, solving problems, making mistakes, embracing them, and trying again. Teaching through phenomena also allows her to implement a number of different teaching methods depending on the task at hand. Using strategies that get the students active and engaged have been instrumental in changing the culture of her classroom. Engaging students through productive talk turns her classroom into a student-driven learning environment. Along with using productive talk, she also uses gallery walks, small- and whole-group discussion, close reading, driving question boards, and claim evidence reasoning along with many others. These methods coupled with the science and engineering practices not only provide students with opportunities for engagement but also allow them to develop valuable skills they can use across all academic areas and beyond. "I have come to see Mrs. Rademaker as a transformative leader in science education that I wished every science teacher in our country could meet someday and learn from," says Michael Novak, Instructor, Northwestern University.