Nick Crooker, an earth science teacher at Modesto High School in Modesto, California, is the Far Western Section OEST award winner for 2010. Nick came out of a background in biology and returned to school for an education in earth science so he could develop a well-rounded program at his school.
Nick has been a member of the NAGT for a number of years, attending conferences and field trips in the Far Western Section. He helped prepare the guidebook for the FWS Lava Beds National Monument conference in 2007.
Nick describes several important traits in a good teacher: Steadfastness helps in the teaching profession when the political environment tends to erode quality support in the classroom. Patience with each student helps him make them the best they can be. Flexibility enables him to handle unexpected problems and teaching situations in the classroom. Humor helps keep the instructor sane and the students interested in the subject matter. All of this is under the umbrella of a broad science background in the physical, environmental, and biological sciences. He is able to draw upon years of experience and incorporate this in classroom instruction.
Nick's classroom has rock displays and pictures coordinating with the State Standards. With tight budgets, field trips are an impossibility. With document cameras and LCD projectors, he shares with his students exciting places of geological interest via the internet and from his own personal travels.
Currently, he participates with the A.V.I.D. program at Modesto High School. This program takes selected students who will be the first to go on to a college education in their family, and engage them in a rigorous academic program throughout their four years in high school. He has also taught the natural and physical sciences for the local Adult School for the past 23 years.