Polk State Professor Receives Mining Society’s Teacher of the Year Award

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Polk State Professor Suzy Halverson has added another accolade to her resume.

Earlier this month, she was named the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration’s (SME) 2012 Florida Teacher of the Year, a competition that began five years ago and is open to all science and math teachers in elementary, middle and high schools in Hardee, Hillsborough and Polk counties.

Halverson is a professor at Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School, where she teaches Honors Anatomy and Physiology. She is also coordinator of the school’s STEM Research (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Enhancement Program  and adviser of the school’s Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) chapter.

Teacher of the Year winners are selected based on their work to excite students about science and math education and overall teaching excellence. A selection committee also considers the applicant’s degrees, previous awards, work experience and professional associations.

“Dr. Halverson stood out because of her involvement in STEM. STEM is right up there with one of the missions of SME, which is to stimulate and encourage education in math and science in the communities where we operate,” said Matt Lewis, director of aggregate resources at CEMEX in Lakeland and chairman of SME’s Florida Section.

Since joining the faculty at Polk State Chain of Lakes in 2006, Halverson has developed the school’s STEM Research Enhancement Program, which provides students with academic advising and support, and a rigorous STEM Research course, all to prepare them to major in a STEM discipline when they enter college.

At the start of the 2011-12 school year, 30 students applied for the program, representing 11 percent of the school’s student population. Halverson mentors those students to identify and design experiments addressing real-world problems.

In the past year alone, all five STEM students who participated in the Polk Regional Science and Engineering Fair placed or received awards. Also, several of Halverson’s students have received national STEM-related recognition. They include Kirstie Tandberg, who competed at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May. Tandberg’s project on how the calcium component contained in cacti could be used to reduce phosphate levels in water was also a fourth-place winner at the 2012 Florida Science and Engineering Fair. Students Marissa Spruell and Kevin Stennett were winners of the Green Education Foundation national writing contest about water conservation.

Halverson also developed Polk State Chain of Lakes HOSA Chapter, allowing students to be able to compete in medical-skills competitions, and started the school’s National Honor Society chapter.

To enhance the educational experience of Polk State Chain of Lakes students, Halverson has forged partnerships with the University of South Florida Polytechnic, University of South Florida Sports Medicine Department, Florida Hospital Sports Medicine Department, Florida Citrus Research Center, as well as the Robotic Microsurgery Center at Winter Haven Hospital and its associated Legoland Robotics Program.

Halverson also regularly participates in conferences and other events to share Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate’s extensive work in helping students prepare for STEM-related fields.

Another of Halverson’s initiatives was the development of pretests and posttests to measure student progress in her Honors Anatomy & Physiology course. Based on the information the tests provide, Halverson is able to make adjustments to the course to better ensure students are ready to succeed at the college level.

“Dr. Halverson is an innovative educator, but words do not adequately express the range of activities that take place in her classroom. The lessons delve beyond the basics of the subject matter and connect to the real-world applications of the curriculum,” said Polk State Chain of Lakes Director Bridget Fetter in her recommendation to the Teacher of the Year evaluation committee.

Halverson holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate degree in Health Science from Nova Southeastern University. Earlier this year, she was named a George Jenkins Endowed Faculty Chair by the Polk State College Foundation and Outstanding Rookie Advisor of the Year by Florida HOSA. In 2010, she was named Polk State Chain of Lakes’ Teacher of the Year.

For her Teacher of the Year award, she received $500.

In addition to her Teacher of the Year nod, Halverson also received a $500 mini-grant from SME. The Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High STEM Enhancement Program will use the grant to purchase an edition of IBM’s SPSS Statistics Standard software, which students will use to analyze data collected from STEM research projects.

“I’m very honored to have received this award and grant, both of which will definitely help enhance our STEM Research Enhancement Program,” Halverson said.

SME is a nonprofit professional society with nearly 15,000 members who represent 85 countries and all professions serving the minerals industry. SME members are engineers, geologists, metallurgists, educators, students and researchers.