Eastern Arizona Science Initiative Announces 2016 STEM Educators of the Year

Contributed Photo: Duncan Elementary teacher Ron Hileman and EAC Dean of Instruction and Chemistry and Physics teacher Dr. Phil McBride were selected as this years Eastern Arizona Science Initiative STEM Educators of the Year. Pictured are, from left, EASI Vice-Chair Becky Bell, Hileman, McBride and EASI Chair Paul Anger.

Contributed Article

THATCHER – The Eastern Arizona Science Initiative (EASI) honored Mr. Ron Hileman, fourth-grade teacher from Duncan Elementary School, and Dr. Phil McBride, Dean of Instruction at Eastern Arizona College and Chemistry & Physics teacher at Thatcher High School, as the 2016 STEM Educators of the Year.  The EASI STEM Educator of the Year Award is an annual recognition of two outstanding educators; one representing Pre-Kindergarten through sixth grade and another representing seventh through 14th (college level), who are actively involved in providing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the Eastern Arizona region.   

Hileman has taught in Duncan since 1986 and is currently the longest tenured employee, and he’s continually improving.  He was selected as the pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade STEM Educator of the Year for his outstanding efforts in bringing hands-on science activities to Duncan schools.  Mr. Hileman demonstrates a true love of teaching science as he also teaches the fifth- and sixth-grade sciences at the elementary school.  He initiated setting up a complete science lab for the elementary school to use, which includes maintaining the equipment and keeping the materials stocked and ready. 

Mr. Hileman was awarded a grant five years ago to build a teaching greenhouse for the elementary school and organized a student “Plant Club” to both maintain the school garden and plant flowers and plants to beautify their school grounds and the Duncan Library while learning the characteristics, structures and functions of plant parts.  Working in partnership with the University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension Program, Hileman is working on increasing the garden size and incorporating fruit trees into the programs.  He is also active in the “Weather Bug” program, where students track and report local weather conditions. 

To celebrate the end of each school year, Mr. Hileman’s classes build and launch solid fuel rockets and invite the entire school to come out and observe their ascent. 

“Mr. Hileman really helps our students develop a love for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math,” said Duncan Middle School teacher, Felicia Smith.

“On weekends, holidays and all summer long, you will find his truck in the parking lot, and he will be actively working on one project or another,” said Duncan Schools Superintendent, Eldon Merrill. “The amount of students he has introduced and mentored in relation to plants, gardening and science is tremendous.  He is a valued and trusted employee, and we are fortunate to have him on our staff.”

 Dr. McBride was selected as the seventh- through 14th-grade STEM Educator of the Year for his superior work in providing STEM education for the Eastern Arizona community.  Dr. McBride regularly seeks out grant opportunities to support teacher improvement and directs large-scale STEM activities and events like the annual Gila Valley Health & Science Festival that brings community members of all ages together with EAC instructors, businesses and local professionals for exciting hands-on activities to explore STEM education and career opportunities.  He also directs the annual “College for Kids” for elementary age students and “Chemistry Day at EAC” for high school students from throughout the state to attend and compete in stimulating activities and procedures to earn the title of “Top Chemistry Team”. 

As a long-time member of the Arizona Science Teachers Association, currently serving as Membership Secretary, Dr. McBride is essential in organizing the annual conferences of teacher workshops that provide educators from all over Arizona professional development opportunities to improve their knowledge and teaching skills. 

In demonstrating his love of teaching chemistry, Dr. McBride created a complete lesson curriculum, in conjunction with Freeport-McMoRan Inc., to teach the chemical processes of copper mining using actual methods and hands-on activities designed to inspire youth to pursue higher education and careers in chemistry and science. 

As a member of the Boy Scouts of America, Dr. McBride directed a unique Boy Scout Camporee; all the activities and competitions were designed as STEM lessons.  From astronomy to fire building, the scouts gained experience and understanding of the scientific principles behind the activity.  Dr. McBride is indeed a driving force behind STEM education in Eastern Arizona. 

“Dr. McBride is one of those rare leaders who works equally well with subordinates, colleagues and executive leaders,” said Eastern Arizona College Provost, Jeanne Bryce. “One of his leadership strengths is his ability to demand attention in a witty and clever way when he speaks or presents.  He is indeed a master teacher.”

 The Eastern Arizona Science Initiative is honored to recognize Mr. Ron Hileman and Dr. Phil McBride for their outstanding efforts to share and facilitate STEM education in the Eastern Arizona community.  Both recipients received a framed certificate distinguishing them as STEM Educator of the Year, as well as a $25 certificate donated by the Home Depot in Thatcher for classroom science supplies, a certificate for an educational outreach visit for two to the Mt. Graham International Observatory from the EAC Discovery Park Campus and a $25 gift certificate donated by the El Charro restaurant in Safford.  EASI appreciates our friends who generously donated gifts to honor our STEM Educators of the year, as well as the Eastern Arizona Community for their support of our local educators.  EASI is a nonprofit group of educators and professionals whose mission is to improve STEM education and provide teacher professional development throughout Eastern Arizona.  For more information on activities or opportunities to donate or volunteer call Paul Anger at (928) 428-6260.