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Plano ISD Educators Capture TI Foundation Innovations in STEM Teaching Awards

May 6, 2016

Three Plano ISD teachers captured TI Foundation Innovations in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Teaching Awards, and an additional three teachers were named award finalists. The six teachers were recognized at the May 3 Plano ISD Board of Trustees meeting. Winners are Bryan Yee, Plano Senior High School; Raymond Morton, Hendrick Middle School; and Laura Spear, Vines High School. Finalists are Amy Semifero, Academy High School; Parul Dumka, Williams High School; and Neil Milburn, Plano West Senior High School.


TI Foundation Innovations in STEM Teaching Award winners Bryan Yee, Laura Spear and Raymond Morton are pictured following their announcement at the May 3 school board meeting.

Presenting STEM awards at the school board meeting were Dr. Jim Wussow, assistant superintendent for academic services; Harvey Fishero, Plano ISD Education Foundation Board of Directors past president; Whitney Evans,secondary math coordinator and finalist of the 2009 TI Foundation Innovations in STEM Teaching Award; and Ann Pomykal, Texas Instruments Foundation's director for major education grants.

STEM Teaching Award Winners

Bryan Yee, Plano Senior High School

Mathematics Teacher Bryan Yee has taught various levels of mathematics from geometry to college-level (AP) Calculus and Statistics at Plano Senior High since January 2007. Regardless of the course, he inspires his students to try hard and develops in them a sense of self-confidence that they can in fact "do math." On his campus, he is a leader, a gentleman, a scholar and a lifelong learner and models all of those roles for his students and his colleagues every day. Bryan's success comes from his attention to detail. He is always focused on his students and what makes each unique. He tells his students that he is teaching them a different way of thinking, but he is also teaching them to face a problem and try multiple ways to solve it. He knows that if they can do that through learning statistics, they can use that problem-solving skill the rest of their lives. Further, Bryan finds countless ways to help students. When he is not teaching, you will find him tutoring or going to AVID to work with students during his conference period. By incorporating fun and real world questions, Bryan has made the world of statistics much more palatable to his students. As a result he has had one of the highest passing rates of any program in the country, averaging around 90%. Bryan is a highly respected member of the Plano Senior High School staff. Besides mentoring new teachers, he is currently serving on an Outreach Committee and is dedicated to bringing more students into AP courses. He is a shining example of the excellence that is Plano ISD and the TI STEM Award.

Raymond Morton, Hendrick Middle School

Raymond Morton is a seventh grade math teacher who serves as the math department head, provides Tier 3 instruction and is a member of the AVID team at Hendrick Middle School. Raymond’s students are excited to be with him, to hear his stories, to listen to his crazy questions, and to question themselves, ask each other for help and to sometimes be wrong. Which would you rather have? A million dollars for a month’s worth of work or a penny for a day’s worth of work but with the promise that the penny will double every day for a month? Raymond’s students will tell you to pick the latter – because they are becoming financial literacy experts through the study of simple and compounded interest. Raymond challenges students to tap into their unique learning styles and use the ever present hand held computer to discover the multifaceted concepts of mathematics. Combining math instruction with technology allows students to absorb the foundation of mathematics, while also learning other transferable skills. Data shows that if students are engaged and confident, learning results. Raymond Morton is an asset to Hendrick Middle School faculty; his passion for teaching math and dedication to student learning merits this prestigious acknowledgement. We support his efforts and congratulate him as one of the recipients of the TI STEM Teaching Award.

Laura Spear, Vines High School

Laura Spear has been a dedicated member of the Vines High School faculty where she has served as ninth grade Biology teacher, Biology Team Leader, Science Department Chair, and Leadership Team Member. In Mrs. Spear’s classroom, the questions drive the learning. It’s a refreshing approach – and one that puts the students in the forefront. Mrs. Spear demonstrates outstanding commitment to students, as well as provides strong leadership for her colleagues both on our campus and in our district. She exemplifies effective science instruction and leads her students in activities and learning that are every bit as engaging as they are challenging. She maintains high expectations for her students as she does for herself as they walk together through 9th grade Biology. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Mrs. Spear extends herself to her students before and after school to provide additional tutoring and help them be even more successful. Mrs. Spear is a master at motivating kids to do their best and we receive numerous compliments from parents every year on how much their children have learned and grown as science learners in her care. She never hesitates to accept responsibility or take initiative in the interest of children. Laura Spear is a deserving recipient for the 2016 TI STEM Teaching Award.

STEM Teaching Award Finalists

Amy Semifero, Academy High School

Technology and Art Facilitator

Amy Semifero is best described as a contributor, an investor in the possible and a believer in the magic that happens when a child is changed by their learning. In her role as technology and art facilitator at the Academy High School, Ms. Semifero exemplifies the engineering processes of design with fluid interconnectedness of content areas. Ms. Semifero’s ability to deepen and enrich learner project challenges has exponentially improved authentic and meaningful learning experiences across her grade level. She is a voracious learner herself, and recently became Google and Chromebook certified as examples of her drive to improve her skills to lead both learners and colleagues. Ms. Semifero is greatly appreciated by her colleagues as she is the first to help, to share an idea, to share a resource, or to find an answer; no challenge is too great when her students and team need her.

Parul Dumka, Williams High School

Engineering, Video Game Design & Multimedia Teacher

Parul has worked at Williams High School for the last two years as a Math Teacher and currently as the Engineering, Video Game Design, and Multimedia Teacher. Her Information Technology students represent the next generation of web developers. They have moved so far beyond the early web designs that they are now developing web pages that could compete with the industry experts. Ms. Dumka has proven herself to be a vital contributor to the Williams High School PLTW (spell out) program. She has presented microteaching seminars about English Language Learners; she has created a class website, and implements Google Classroom. Additionally, Parul has started a coders club where students were able to earn free laptops. Parul will soon polish herself off with a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration with a minor in Technology Learning. She is also a Stage 3 participant in the Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Program at the University of North Texas.

Neil Milburn, Plano West Senior High School

You’ve heard the expression, “It’s not rocket science?” Well, in Neil Milburn's class at Plano West Senior High School, it is! Students in his class are learning AP Chemistry alongside a real-life rocket scientist…and they seem to know how cool that is. As Plano West’s resident "Rocket/Engineer/Scientist," he explains that his career is a culmination of many stages in his life. He is the definition of a "Lifelong Learner," as exemplified in his impressive resume. Neil Milburn entered the education field in 2003 as an AP Chemistry and IB Physics teacher for 6 years and is now in his third year as one of three AP Chemistry teachers at Plano West. His peers describe him as kind, patient, and an excellent source of information regarding a broad range of fields. He is admired for going back to school to work on a Masters/PhD in education in order to continue to improve his teaching. He pushes the students to recognize that learning has to be a choice and teams of people have to learn to work together. As David Carroll, science department chair, says, "If you were to observe Neil’s classroom, you would see instruction and classroom management on par with that of a master teacher. He is a natural-born teacher.''




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eNews Table of Contents

TI Innovations in STEM Teaching Awards

For the past ten years, the Plano ISD Education Foundation has embraced its work with the Texas Instruments Foundation to recognize outstanding Plano ISD teachers of secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Texas Instruments Innovations in STEM Teaching Awards are made possible through the generosity of the Texas Instruments Foundation.

The awards honor and recognize talented,
dedicated and outstanding secondary teachers. In addition to excellence in the classroom, the finalists and winners also foster enthusiasm and generate excitement for science, technology, engineering and mathematics as they work with their students and collaborate with colleagues.

The three 2016 TI Award recipients will each receive a $5,000 personal cash award and a $5,000 award that will go toward their school for classroom technology or professional development opportunities. The three STEM Award Finalists will each receive a $500 award.