Amendola: Science Educator of the Year
With help from the Jazz Bear, the Utah Museum of Natural History honored Maureen Amendola with this year’s Science Educator of the Year Award.
"I was completely surprised," said Amendola, an 11-year Park City High School veteran. "I had no idea they were going to do this, especially on this level I’m very honored and I’m very flattered." On Thursday, museum staff surprised Amendola with an announcement she’d won on the school’s Miner Morning Show. The award includes $1,000 and Jazz tickets. Amendola and the rest of the science department were treated to an elegant lunch in the cafeteria, complete with an accompanying violin player. Amendola modestly calls her award a "department effort," and describes herself as "one piece of a really cohesive group of strong (science) educators." "It’s the strong players around me that help me meet the needs of the kids," Amendola said. Ephraim Dickson, the museum’s education director, said the award focuses on teachers who work with individual students to improve physical science skills. "Students love her, she has a real impact," Dickson said. Teachers from all across Utah are nominated, so it’s "very competitive," Dickson said. Only three teachers received the award this year. The other two are middle school science teachers in Logan and Vernal, said Patti Carpenter with the museum. Teaching, Amendola said, is the "only job I’ve ever had that’s not boring, that has small rewards every day." Amendola enjoys the "elegant logic" of science. That can be a challenge to convey to teenagers sometimes, and Amendola says the way to do that is "bit by bit." Teenagers "are so entertaining. They’re so malleable and they’re so above board. What you see is what you get," Amendola said.
Principal Hal Smith said, "She is just an exceptional teacher. She meets the needs of students as she finds them."
Amendola evaluates students and plans programs to "get them to achieve," Smith continued. "She’s just wonderful. She meets all levels of students."
In Amendola’s application, fellow science teacher Mary Purzycki wrote, "Student success is Maureen’s mantra. She spends time before, during, and after school tutoring students so they won’t walk away with a ‘bad taste in their mouth’ when it comes to chemistry."
Amendola has the unique ability to help students discover their learning styles to become "self-advocates for their education," Purzycki wrote.
Amendola’s goals as a teacher are to make adolescence a less painful time for as many children as possible and to commit herself to the "average" students so they emerge as more ethical, confident, self-actualized people.
Amendola studied pre-pharmacy at Pennsylvania State University, science education at the University of Wyoming, and earned her master’s in education at the University of Utah. She has been nominated for the Park City Education Foundation’s Doilney-Barnes Teaching Excellence Award five times and won it once. She has won the Teaching Excellence Academic Recognition Award for the last three years, and was nominated for the Radio Shack National Teacher Award in 2000. "If you ask Maureen about these awards, she laughs them off, she is never ‘happy’ with her teaching, which is why she is a great teacher," Purzycki said. "Her willingness to try new things, analyze and reflect on classroom practices is evident when you observe her teaching and her interactions with students."
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