Tammie Pennington can’t hide the fact that she loves what she’s doing.
Pennington’s passion for teaching hasn’t escaped her students and those around her. A biology teacher at Windsor High School for the last eight years, Pennington caught the eye of the National Association of Biology Teachers and the Colorado Biology Teachers Association who awarded her the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award for Colorado for 2014.
“Being recognized by your peers and having people come into your classroom and go around the state and look at teachers and have them give you the award for outstanding biology teaching is amazing,” Pennington said. “I have an awesome job, and I have awesome kids. To get the award is icing on the cake.”
According to a news release from the national and state biology teachers associations, the honor, given annually since 1961 by national association, identifies outstanding biology teachers in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Canada and overseas territories. Teachers who teach the majority of their career in the life sciences in grades 7-12 in public or private schools are eligible. Colorado honorees are selected by actual classroom visitations and observations, and Pennington was observed this past spring by the award committee. Pennington was also nominated for the award in 2013.
“They were in my classroom several times observing me teach,” Pennington said. “This year they asked me to reapply, and I did.”
Pennington, 45, teaches advanced placement biology and pre-AP biology at WHS, and has been teaching for 23 years.
“I love biology myself, and the passion comes from within,” Pennington said. “I’m curious about everything that’s out there. There’s so much still to know, it’s kind of a young science. My philosophy in the classroom is we don’t do a lot of lecturing. It’s all hands-on with activities. That makes it fun.”
WHS Principal Michelle Scallon said she is proud to have Pennington on her staff.
“She is an amazing teacher. I’ve been in her classroom, and it’s fun to watch her teach because she gets the kids involved,” Scallon said. “She’s innovative. She’s interesting and the kids love her. She’s always cutting edge. She goes to all these national conferences and professional developments, and she brings information back and shares it with our staff and students. Tammie Pennington is real. You can walk into her classroom any day and see great teaching.”
Scallon said Pennington challenges her students.
“She has high expectations. She’s all about kids,” Scallon said. “She stays late and comes early. She’s just an amazing woman.”
Pennington, who also won the Colorado biology teacher of the year from the Colorado Association of Science Teachers for excellence in secondary education during her time at WHS, graduated from Highland High School in Ault in 1986, and received her bachelor’s of arts degree in biology and minor in chemistry from the University of Northern Colorado, She earned her master’s degree in biology and ecology from the University of Colorado.
Pennington will be honored at the CBTA Biology Spring Symposium and at the 2014 NABT Professional Development Conference in Cleveland on Nov. 12-15 and at the Colorado Science Conference on Nov. 21 at the Denver Merchandise Mart. NABT will provide certificates for her and for Windsor High School. CBTA will contribute a plaque and a $350 honorarium toward her travel expenses.
Pennington will be presented with roughly $3,000 worth of prizes, including a digital microscope from Ken-A-Vision, 14 photographic atlases from Morton Publishing Co., a world population DVD from the Population Connection, a DNA crystal model from The DNA Store, and “Demo a Day” book from Flinn Scientific. She will receive gift certificates for merchandise from Carolina Biological Supply, ThermoFisher Science Ed, Nebraska Scientific, Vernier Software, and Windsong Environmental Ed Foundation. Pennington will receive cash stipends from Keith Anderson, David Dean of A+ Microscope Company and Ellie Isbill.
“Everything I win we can all share equally,” Pennington said about sharing her awards with the science department and other students at WHS. “I’m excited about the microscope. I think that will be really neat for the kids.”
Pennington has coached Knowledge Bowl, sponsors the Bio-Club and mentors students and teachers.
Pennington also teaches outside the classroom and has organized field trips with WHS chemistry teacher Glenn Peterson where they’ve taken their students to Costa Rica and Peru. She is currently on a field trip with her biology students in the Galapagos Islanads.
Pennington is the president-elect for the Colorado Biology Teachers Association and is an active member of the National Association of Biology Teacher, Colorado Association of Science Teachers and the Advanced Placement Biology community.