Jason Graham, a science teacher at Stratford Middle School in Pleasanton, recently earned the Teacher of the Year award from the Synopsys Outreach Foundation Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair.
Graham expressed gratitude for receiving the award and credited it to school students and community for their support.
"I feel that it reflects the shine that so many of our students exhibited with their participation in the science fair this year," Graham said in an interview.
Graham said the director and staff at Stratford went above and beyond to support students preparing for the science fair.
"Our director helped to ensure that we had the materials and equipment that students needed to complete their projects. Math teachers helped guide the students to effectively analyze and present their data, while ELA teachers provided time for peer-editing which helped the students refine their reports and presentations," he said.
"The students themselves were brilliant and were all very supportive of each other, providing suggestions for improvements along the way," he added.
In all, 24 students from Stratford Pleasanton Middle School participated in the science fair and received awards ranging from first to fourth place for various projects like the carotenoid transplants, electromagnetism and Venus fly trap propagation among other great projects, according to Graham.
"It was a truly amazing experience to see so many of our students recognized for their efforts."
Graham said as a teacher, he strives to establish a learning community early in the school year to help each student realize their potential through the encouragement and support from their peers and himself.
Furthermore the students practice elevator pitches, presentations and are encouraged to express their thoughts in group discussion.
"This helps them to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities while reducing the fear of challenges and obstacles that they face along the way," Graham said. "When challenges surface, the students are more comfortable asking for help and more open to suggestions from their peers and mentors."
He also mentioned the work students do at their new science lab that helps support future research.
Many of our students have been writing articles to submit for publication to peer-reviewed scientific journals. Our students have been caring for Venus fly traps, crayfish, tadpoles, frogs, fish and quail chicks that we hatched from eggs in our school incubator.
Graham said the best outcome as a teacher is to see students succeed, and it is wonderful to encourage their excitement.
"Seeing my students find their spark in science that will inspire them to overcome their challenges and achieve their goals" is satisfying, Graham said. "My hope is that they continue to find wonder in this world throughout their lives."
In the future, he hopes to continue to build new science programs to encourage and inspire students to pursue their dreams.
"We have started an outdoor teaching lab in our school garden and I would like to continue building and growing that program to help the students connect with science through outdoor education and experiential learning," he said.
It was not always easy for Graham and personal struggles as a student compelled him to drop out of high school. He said it was challenging as it took him 10 years to build up the confidence to go back to college.
But supportive and encouraging teachers guided him well and inspired to choose teaching as a profession and spread that kindness.
"Teachers who served as mentors for me and helped me to find my inner strength and cultivate the determination to succeed, helped inspire me to teach and pay forward their kindness and support," he said.
His hope is that his students continue to pursue their dreams and succeed, and he wants them to know that they have it within themselves to overcome their challenges.
"I hope that they continue to develop the skills they will need to find solutions to the many issues facing our planet so they can make this world a better place for generations to come," Graham said.