Graduate School of Education (GSE) Curriculum and Instruction Assistant Professor Wendi Laurence has won the Wendell G. Mohling Outstanding Aerospace Educator Award from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). She is a 2007 graduate of the Doctorate of Educational Leadership: Curriculum and Instruction program. The award recognizes a teacher with at least three years of experience for “excellence in the field of aerospace education.” The award includes an honorarium of $3,000, along with $2,000 toward her trip to the annual NSTA conference in Nashville, Tennessee, March 31–April 3, 2016.
Laurence is an Oregon Laurels Scholar and a past recipient of the Portland State President’s Award for Outstanding Community Engagement. She lives in Park City, Utah, and teaches online classes for PSU in the Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction program. She has taught for the GSE since 2009. Prior to that she was a graduate assistant, 2001–2004, and a research specialist, 2004–2006, for the PSU Center for Science Education.
“Wendi has more energy than anybody I know,” said Professor Christine Chaillé, who heads the Curriculum and Instruction Department at PSU. “You can find her teaching robotics, astronomy, engineering, aviation, rocketry, and STEAM in a variety of formal and informal venues. She always brings her expertise, passion, research, creativity, and curiosity to everything she does so that more students can reach their potential to learn and love science.”
Laurence develops K–12 curricula in the areas of aeronautics, astronomy, robotics, rocketry, engineering design, science inquiry, and the intersection of the art and STEM fields, also known as STEAM. She uses a puppet, Confuzzled, to engage kids and encourage them to keep trying. Confuzzled has a Twitter account, @createosity, and tweets news about her activities. Laurence is often assisted by her husband, Jim, a pilot. The two volunteered together with Soar with Books at the Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver, WA, and have presented together at NSTA.
In addition to her work with GSE Curriculum and Instruction, Laurence is a science specialist at Meadowlark Elementary in Salt Lake City, an instructor and volunteer at the historic Egyptian Theater in Park City, Utah, and is involved in its Youtheater program. She has served as a member and past chair of the NSTA Aerospace Education Advisory Board and developed a hybrid STEM teaching project for NASA Aerospace Education Services.
She is a prolific scholar and has published and presented in three areas: making STEM learning accessible; the scholarship of teaching, learning, and collaboration; and teacher recruitment, development, and retention. Her dissertation is entitled reVisioning: A Theoretical Model of Teachers’ Career Choices.
In her spare time, she is a coach for First Lego League and is a dog handler for Therapy Dogs International.
Also honored by the NSTA this year was doctoral student Alfonso Garcia Arriola as the District XVII recipient of the Robert E. Yager Foundation Excellence in Teaching Awards.
The National Science Teachers Association, based in Arlington, Virginia, is the largest professional science organization in the world, promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA is an international organization with 55,000 members in over 100 countries that honors K–12 students, teachers, principals, professors, and other science education professionals for their outstanding work and achievement in science education. Along with Achieve, the National Research Council, and AAAS, NSTA served as a partner in the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).