The first thing you notice when speaking with Mary Vaughn, gifted science instructor, is her unabiding passion for teaching. She was recently honored with the 2009-10 PRISM Teacher Award for Hillsborough County.
PRISM stands for Promoting Regional Improvement in Science and Math. Ten counties in Florida come together each year to recognize those teachers who have made an exceptional impact on students.
Vaughn has been teaching science and math for 20 years and is endlessly seeking new and innovative ways to instruct students.
"Science has to be hands on," she confided.
Her enthusiasm is catchy and it is easy to see why PRISM chose to commend her on her efforts.
She is a two-time member of Kennedy's Space Center Space Camp, sponsored by Honeywell. More than 1,500 teachers applied for spots in the teacher-oriented space camp. Only 300 were selected, Vaughn being one of them. The second camp was an advanced camp in which she was chosen to attend with only 15 other teachers from around the world.
Besides her interest in space exploration, Vaughn also keeps busy as a science trainer for the school district and a member of the science textbook committee. She also wrote and received a grant for $4,200 sponsored by Dart Container Corp. to purchase STEM materials (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to teach students to integrate and apply engineering design progress.
"I want to help create a generation of thinkers," stated Vaughn.
Most recently she won a scholarship to attend Sally Ride Science Academy in Nashville to receive training about the moon. Additionally, her fifth-grade class from last year was invited to the final space shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center for winning a planetary egg drop contest sponsored by Space Florida, Kennedy Space Center, the Florida Department of Education and Universal Studios.
Throughout all of her additional training and extracurricular activities, Vaughn's main focus remains her students. Everything she learns she brings back to the classroom to share and discuss with them.