BCHS science teacher receives award from University of South Alabama

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 8:18 PM CDT
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BAY MINETTE, Ala. (WALA) - A Baldwin County High School science teacher got a big surprise Tuesday morning, September 20, 2022. Each year the University of South Alabama (USA) selects a group of winners for its Extra Yard Award. The winning teachers receive cash awards to go towards classroom projects.

Bates’ first period earth and space class was the setting for the USA’s awards team to spring the news. It definitely caught the class by surprise when the Jags cheerleaders and school mascot, Miss Pawla showed up with a big check and announced their teacher, Hunter Bates had been selected as one of this year’s winners.

“Yeah. Then I’m like, ‘I won. I won the five-hundred dollars.’ It was a big deal,” Bates said. “Dr. Paige and USA, I just want to thank everybody for coming out because, you…the five-hundred dollars is for the kids.”

“The opportunity for our students to engage in authentic learning is really important. It gives them that hands-on experience. They’re doing something that improves their own community,” USA faculty representative, Dr. Paige Vitulli said.

Bates entered the contest, hoping to expand on an outdoor project he began with some of his classes last year. There’s been a pond near the entrance to the campus for many years which had fallen into disrepair. BCHS senior, Kareem Stevens and other students cleaned and patched it up last year and brought it back to life.

With the help of his $500 award, BCHS science teacher plans on upgrading technology to bring...
With the help of his $500 award, BCHS science teacher plans on upgrading technology to bring nature into the classroom(Hal Scheurich)

“It feels great that we did something to actually get recognized for and everything and then let other classes like you said, do experiments and all that…do projects and get to do like, cool stuff with it,” Stevens said.

Now, the pond supports a variety of plant and animal life. Bates often takes his classes outdoors to learn and uses the pond as a centerpiece for environmental stewardship. He said this check for $500.00 will go a long way in helping to do just that.

“We just want to make sure that we have everything for them and they’re ready for the real world and for me to do that, I need more income so I can get them more hands-on experience because I can teach them out of this book every day but in reality, the kids are going to learn more whenever they’re outside, getting hands-on,” Bates explained.

Most of the money will be spent on technology that will allow Bates to project images from his microscope to the video display board in his classroom. This will bring the microscopic world of the pond to life and be a much more efficient use of time.

Other winners here in Mobile County included entries from Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies, Clark-Shaw Magnet School and Williamson High School. All the winners also received a pair of tickets to the Jags home game against LA Tech this weekend. Congratulations to all the winners.

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