Naomi Volain, a teacher at the Springfield Central High School in Springfield, Massachusetts, has been selected as one of fifty finalists for the 2015 Global Teacher Prize. In 2014, Naomi developed an MIT BLOSSOMS lesson entitled “Pollination: Saying It with Flowers,” which focuses on plants as essential players in the natural world. [Update: Naomi is now one of ten finalists!]
“The Varkey Foundation launched the Global Teacher Prize to celebrate the best teachers around the world, those who inspire their students and the communities around them. The Global Teacher Award seeks to do for education what the Nobel Prize has done for science, literature, and peace. The focus is to uplift the valuable contributions that teachers make every day to establish a flourishing global society.
Naomi began her career as a dietician working in community and clinical nutrition. However, she wanted to work closely with teenagers and therefore moved into teaching. She now teaches AP Environmental Science, Botany, Ecology and Biology at Springfield Central High School in Massachusetts, a diversely-populated inner-city school.
Applying to NASA to become a teacher in space, she made the top 10% of finalists, which became the NASA Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers. Due to this connection she has been able to use NASA resources in her teaching.
Her hands-on, highly interactive classes focus on environmental literacy and outdoor education. They include many field trips and participation in scientific research programs, making her courses attractive to special education and English Language Learner students as well as connecting inner-city youths with nature. With Naomi as their coach, her students have won several research awards.
Naomi received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science as well as the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators – Honourable Mention for the Environmental Protection Agency Region 1. She has also been very active presenting professional development sessions to science teachers on local, state and national levels.
The winner for the Global Teacher Prize will be announced on March 16, 2015.