2023 AACT Teacher of the Year Award Winners
By AACT on June 7, 2023
Each year, AACT recognizes K–12 educators with the Teacher of the Year award. Through their pedagogy, dedication, skills, and accomplishments, these teachers make outstanding contributions to the chemistry teaching profession and AACT.
Amy teaches 7th and 8th grade science at Bednarcik Junior High School in Aurora, IL. Along with chemistry, she also teaches physical science, life science, and engineering. Amy started her teaching career 22 years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho, Southern Africa. Without many materials and without access to the internet for ideas, she learned how to teach chemistry using creative methods that still resonate with students today. Her students participate in the Beauty and Charm program through Fermilab which has helped inspire students to pursue degrees in chemical and nuclear engineering. As an EarthEcho Fellow, she helped with the curriculum writing for Water by Design which connects chemistry with earth science topics. She is currently part of the American Nuclear Society K–12 Education Advisory Group. Bednarcik Junior High became one of the first middle schools to participate in the AACT ChemClub Program during the 2022–23 school year, and the club had a blast with the monthly themes. Outside of teaching middle school science, Amy enjoys traveling, nature photography, and learning more about sustainability. A highlight of her career was receiving the Fulbright DAST Award in 2022 and traveling to northern Vietnam to teach STEM lessons to students and teachers.
Melissa has been teaching Chemistry and AP Chemistry for 20 years, with 13 years in her current position at Beaver Dam High School in Wisconsin. She is a National Board-certified teacher passionate about making chemistry accessible to all students. She started a “Puentes a STEM” club at her school, where she helped underserved populations get excited about science by pairing Hispanic high school students with Hispanic STEM mentors at the local university. Melissa is also enthusiastic about bringing the real world into her classroom. Through her work with the AACT Science Coaches program, Melissa's students participate in citizen-science projects in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and cancer research. As an AP Chemistry WE Service instructor, Melissa helps her students positively impact their local community through chemistry-related social justice projects each year. She spends her spare time as a contributing author and presenter for AACT, High School POGIL Initiative, and ChemEdX. Melissa won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching for the state of Wisconsin in 2009, Beaver Dam Unified School District Teacher of the Year in 2013, and Wisconsin FIRST Lego Robotics Coach of the Year in 2022. When not in school, Melissa enjoys traveling with her supportive husband and three active school-aged children.