BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Adamsville Primary School fourth-grade teacher Debra Ericksen was chosen as the 2016 recipient of the Sylvia Shugrue Award from the National Science Teachers Association.
Ericksen said the award is given to an elementary school teacher in the country who has established or is planning an interdisciplinary inquiry-based lesson plan.
“That means that science is not a subject that is taught in isolation,” she said. “It includes reading, writing, math and speaking/listening.”
Ericksen said that interdisciplinary instruction has been part of her teaching philosophy.
“It is an instructional model that I’m passionate about,” she said. “I provide learning opportunities for my students that embody the philosophy.”
Through that kind of study, Ericksen said, students are more engaged and learn more because they perceive and experience the world around them with an understanding of the inter-relationships among the subjects.
“It also provides a greater opportunity to apply what they are learning and to become independent critical thinkers,” she said. “Among my favorite experiences as an educator is to stand back and watch learning taking place with my students, to see the wonder in their eyes and the excitement when they make a discovery.”
“You realize, as an educator, that you are part of something that is bigger than yourself and that you’re making a positive difference in how students see themselves and the world around them,” she added. “My students inspire me.”
Ericksen said she is very involved in district and state science initiatives.
In 2012, Ericksen said, she was selected as a scholarship recipient for the ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, which she attended in Jersey City.
“That experience and the professional development that I received ignited my passion for science instruction and interdisciplinary studies,” she said.
As for the National Science Teachers Association, Ericksen said, she read about the award opportunities on the organization’s website, and decided to apply for the Sylvia Shugrue Award.
“It was a rigorous application that took me several months to refine and submit,” she said.
Ericksen said she is honored to receive the award, which she accepted in Nashville at the NSTA National Convention at the end of March.
“I have the privilege of working with so many exceptional educators,” she said. “It is truly an honor to have been selected this year as the one teacher in the country to receive this award.”