National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Southeastern Section Newsletter
Email Edition - Summer / Fall 2004
Outstanding Earth Science Teacher (OEST) winners    
Alabama William Hurd Finnegan (Davidson High School in Mobile, AL)
Florida No OEST application submitted.
Georgia Mrs. Nwakaego (Ego) Okafor (8th grade, Henderson Middle School, Chamblee, GA)
Louisiana No OEST application submitted.
Mississippi No OEST application submitted.
North Carolina No OEST application submitted.
South Carolina Mr. Tom Littlejohn (Greenville, SC)
Tennessee Mrs. Tina King (K-6th grade, West Elementary in Mt. Juliet, TN)

Congratulations to our State OEST Winners!

Below are biographies of some of the state OEST winners.

EGO OKAFOR - Georgia OEST Winner

Mrs. Okafor teaches 8th grade Earth Science. She has been with the Dekalb County Schools System in Georgia for 15 years and at Henderson Middle School for 9 years. Her education includes a B. Sc. (Honors) Zoology and a Master of Science Education. She anticipates the completion of her Ed. S. in Science Education in Dec. 2004. She has been the Chair of the Science Department at Henderson Middle School since 2000.

Ego actively participates in the Science Fair, Partners in Education, and Textbook committees at her school as well as coaching the SECME (Science, Engineering, Communications, Math, and Enrichment) team. Ego is an active member with the National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA), Georgia Science Teachers’ Association (GSTA), Pi Lambda Theta (International Honor Society & Prof. Assoc. In Education). She recently conducted a workshop titled, "What’s up with weather maps?" at NSTA conference in April, 2004. Mrs. Okafor has also co-authored THE EARTH SCIENCE CURRICULUM FOR JUNIORS and she has been involved with the Dekalb County Schools Earth Science Curriculum Committee and the County Realignment of the Science Curriculum. Her awards include: Who’s Who Amongst America’s Teachers 2004, Georgia Earth Science Teacher of the Year 2003, and Who’s Who Amongst America’s Teachers 2002.

Ego's teaching philosophy:
"As a teacher, I believe in motivating students to develop an interest in science in such a way that would make them high achievers in science. I aspire to empower my students to believe in their abilities and values as human beings, in community with others. It’s my responsibility to mentor and provide them with sound academic foundation. These would ensure life-long learning and maximization of the students’ potentials. To achieve this empowerment and foundation, I always strive to establish a classroom climate that fosters a supportive, compassionate, and collaborative learning environment, which helps to unleash the students’ innate creativity."

Ego's strengths as a teacher include:

  • Utilization of my strong academic background, diverse experiences, pedagogical ideas and instructional strategies learned from conferences and workshops.
  • Effective implementation of technology as a vehicle for personal empowerment and collaborative work, and as a tool for teaching and student learning.
  • Attention to details.
  • Effective teaching methods such as discovery-type activities and other hands-on activities that help foster social skills, critical thinking skills and higher order learning.
  • Ability to empower students to believe in themselves.
  • Highly-developed organizational skills
  • Support and fairness to all students in order to create a nurturing learning environment.

TINA KING - SENAGT Regional OEST Winner and the Tennessee State OEST Winner
In 1997, my life as I knew it changed forever. A 55-day trip out west to hunt for fossils and minerals, as well as to excavate dinosaur bones, left a lasting mark on my life and teaching. This trip, along with being an active member of the Tennessee Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Educators of Aquatic Marine Sciences, as well as my involvement in two Middle Tennessee rock clubs, has given me a passion for science and learning. Earth Science suddenly connected me to learning, and still today, it seems that I can't learn science fast enough. Who would have thought that in four short years, I would find myself as a member of a science research team on a continent devoted to science. In November-December, 2001, I left my classroom for two months to live in a field camp on the continental coastline of Antarctica near the Ross Ice Shelf. My participation on this science expedition has also left a lasting mark that will always stay with me and be a part of my teaching and learning. This experience was made possible by the National Science Foundation's "Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic" program. Dr. Sam Bowser, a research scientist at the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, led the science expedition. The divers/scientists on this team dove below 12-feet of ice to collect one-celled organisms called foraminifera. While in Antarctica, I kept a daily journal with images, which may be accessed from the calendar on the TEA web page: When I reflect back to 1997, I realize that a rock, a fossil, and a mineral pulled me into science. Science has become so ingrained in me that it has now become a part of my daily life. My goal is to have science touch lives, in much the same way that Earth Science and Antarctica changed me. For me, Earth Science started the snowball rolling down the hill. My learning has grown by leaps and bounds and my hope is to move people along with me. Learning is about sharing, growing, and moving forward to the next level of learning. My goal is to pull others into learning and science.

I graduated with a BS degree in education (K-9) from Belmont University in 1977. I received a Masters in Educational Leadership in 1999 from Trevecca Nazarene University. I have taught grades K-6, all subjects, including Title 1 Math for the past 24 years. I am currently teaching at West Elementary in Mt. Juliet, TN, for the Wilson County School District, with a goal to pull students of all ages into learning. I have made many presentations at NSTA and TSTA over the past four years to share curriculum and newly developed activities. When I received the Presidential Award of Excellence for Mathematics and Science Teaching in 1999, it gave me the opportunity to buy my first microscope, as well as enabled me to develop curriculum to bring hands-on Earth science activities into the classroom (Soil observations, annual classroom geological dig, ice investigations/ glacier study, and Antarctic research). I was recently invited to NSF to speak on behalf of the Antarctic TEA teachers to tell how the Antarctic experience has been transferred to classrooms. While in Washington, a project manager for the Office of Polar Programs said that the one thing that he noticed that kept coming out in my presentation was my apparent love for learning. I feel that Earth Science changed my learning, and by helping me see the connections to learning, instilled this value inside of me. This "need" to learn has been the catalyst for many adventures into learning, whether snorkeling in a volcano, rafting the Grand Canyon, scuba diving with sea turtles on the Great Barrier Reef, walking on glaciers in Alaska, or walking on the frozen Arctic Ocean. My goals for the next few years are to connect science by incorporating current science research in the Polar Regions to life in other regions. I will continue to work with Dr. Bowser to transfer his research to students and teachers by working to develop a micro study on fossil foraminifera. Foraminifera make a wonderful connection between the paleo and modern environments (lens on the past and present), as well as the Earth as a system.

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