Young science students in Hamilton are in good hands, if the quality of their educators is any indication.

Two Hamilton School District teachers have been recognized by national organizations for their outstanding performance and dedication to their profession.

At Hamilton Middle School, science teacher Becky Burg has been chosen as the 2011 Noyce Fellow, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and administered by Salish Kootenai College.

Although Burg would have received a stipend and scholarship toward a master's degree in science education, she already has her master's degree from Montana State University. Her fellowship includes developing curriculum, leadership and collaboration with peer teachers.

According to the science foundation, Burg was awarded based on her "proven record of excellence in science teaching and science teacher leadership."

"Ms. Burg is an outstanding teacher and we're very honored that she was selected as a Noyce Fellow," said principal Dan Kimzey. "Her classroom is one in which students are highly engaged with many different kinds of activities at all times."

Burg was recruited to Hamilton from Dixon, where she was immersed in Native American culture. She was also part of the Big Sky Science Partnership, which is dedicated to incorporating science and culture.

"Ms. Burg is an expert at weaving Native American and other cultural material into the science curriculum," Kimzey said. "I am confident that the Native American science curriculum materials she develops during her Fellowship will be of the highest quality and will be very useful for other Montana middle school science teachers as they implement Indian Education For All in their classrooms. The staff at Hamilton Middle School is very proud of Becky Burg's recognition and achievement."

Burg, who is in her second year at Hamilton Middle School, has been teaching middle school for five years. She said it was her goal to teach middle school when she got into teaching.

"I really like this age group," she said. "I like the fact that they are just learning their responsibilities. It's the grade level I've always wanted to teach, and teaching a whole day of science is just so rewarding as opposed to teaching several different subjects."

The students in the Bitterroot have really impressed her so far, Burg said.

"I love it here," she said. "The kids are really motivated and the parents are supportive. I'm really thankful for this award. My goal for the whole thing is to further science instruction. I want to make science apply to their own lives."

At Hamilton High School, biology teacher Tom Schmit will receive the Montana Outstanding Biology Teacher Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers at a conference ceremony in California in October.

Schmit has been teaching in Hamilton for 20 years, and he said being recognized by his peers wasn't even the best part of the honor.

"The most rewarding aspect of receiving this honor were the letters of nomination from students and parents," he said. "Their sweet compliments about my teaching really mean the most."

Schmit will also receive a Leica Microsystems microscope as part of his award. According to the NABT website, a major portion of any nominee's career must have been devoted to the teaching of biology/life science, and candidates are judged on their teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, inventiveness, initiative and student-teacher relationships.

Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or


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