VAST Recognition In Science Education (RISE) Awards

VAST RISE Awards are presented to spotlight the excellent work done by science educators across the Commonwealth. They recognize service to science education in the individual's school, school system, and the VAST district in which they work. The awards are grouped in twelve distinct categories:

  •     Elementary (preK-5)
  •     Middle school (6-8)
  •     Biology
  •     Chemistry
  •     Earth Science
  •     Physics
  •     Environmental Science
  •     At-Risk Students (K-12)
  •     Resource Teacher (examples: Technology, Science Resource, Etc.)
  •     Science Educator (non K-12-Examples Science Supervisor, Information Education, Principal, Etc.)
  •     University/College Faculty
  •     Community Partnership (example: Businesses, Politicians, Other Organizations, Etc.)

The number of awards to be given each year will be determined by the Awards Selection Committee based on the qualifications of the nominees. The awardee are invited to attend the VAST PDI and will be recognized at the annual VAST PDI banquet.

Awards Nomination deadline is August 20, 2016.

Applicant does not need to be a VAST member.

Nominations can be made online or by hard copy.  Click Awards Form to print out hard copy to submit. Hard copy nominations should be mailed to:

Timothy Couillard

3700 James River Road

Midlothian, VA 23113

or you can email them to him at

Click here to submit your nomination online.

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2016 Donna Sterling Exemplary Science Teaching Award Middle/Secondary (Grades 6-12)

Donna Sterling was a visionary science educator with a passion for working with science teachers and developing habits of inquiry-based teaching. Most recently, her leadership in the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA) focused on elementary and secondary teacher professional development. This award recognizes that exemplary teachers engage in continuous improvement, and is designed to support a professional development plan for the improvement of science teaching. In 2016, the award will be given to an exemplary middle/secondary teacher. The award will alternate between elementary and middle/secondary. 

The awardee will receive a total of $4000. In addition, travel costs will be reimbursed to attend the 2016 VAST PDI to receive the award and to the 2017 VAST PDI to present a session on the professional development experience and outcomes. The awardee will receive $3000 at the VAST PDI in 2016. The remainder will be awarded after the awardee presents at the next VAST PDI and also submits an article to either the newsletter The Science Educator or the Journal of Virginia Science Education. 

Deadline for applications: July 15, 2016

To apply:

(1)    In no more than two pages, single-spaced, describe an inquiry-based science unit that you taught. Give evidence that the unit was effective. Evidence documents such as student work can be submitted separately, and will not count toward the two-page limit.

In no more than two pages, single-spaced, describe your plan for professional development, using the funds received through the Sterling award. These plans may include summer courses, attendance at workshops, study abroad opportunities, instructional materials development under the guidance of experts on-site, etc. Feel free to be creative in your plan. Submit the professional development description with anticipated outcomes, including plans for a presentation at the 2017 VAST PDI. Tell how this award will help you become a better teacher of science and will support the development of leadership skills.

(2) Submit three letters of recommendation based on direct observations of teaching. One letter must be from the science supervisor or someone serving in that capacity, a second letter must be from the principal, assistant principal, or instructional leader, and a third letter must be from a fellow teacher or a parent. Letters should address the following: Why is this teacher a good candidate for this award? What qualities do they exhibit as teachers that make the recommender think they will use the funds from the award to improve their practice as teachers of science?

All materials must be submitted by 5 pm on July 15, 2016.

Submit applications and letters of recommendation to Dr. Juanita Jo Matkins,