2023 STAT Statewide Award Recipients

Outstanding Science Teacher of the Year Awards

The Outstanding Science Teacher of the Year Awards recognize excellence in science teaching in Texas public, private, or charter schools, and are presented annually.

2023 Outstanding Elementary Science Teacher of the Year

Amber Chalmers

 Amber Chalmers
Lancaster ISD

Creativity, compassion, and critical thinking are three of the values that Amber Chalmers instills in her students every day. Amber started her career in Lancaster ISD–the same district that she graduated from. She saw it as an opportunity to give back to the community that shaped her views, gave her experiences, and motivated her to do better and be better. Now in her 17th year, she teaches fifth-grade science at Houston Elementary School. She seeks to motivate students with her educational raps and creative lessons. Her main goal in the classroom is to teach students how to think beyond the curriculum and standardized tests so that they feel prepared to conquer life’s obstacles. Amber serves as a coach for the District History Bowl competition and volunteers wherever a need is present. Amber earned her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies (early childhood) from Prairie View A&M University and her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington.


2023 Outstanding Secondary Science Teacher of the Year

Selene Verhofstad

Selene Verhofstad, Ed.D.
Pasadena ISD

Selene Verhofstad, Ed.D., is a seasoned science educator, specializing in teaching chemistry to early college students at Dobie High School in Pasadena ISD. She earned her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction (with a STEM emphasis) from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, where she also instructs an advanced science methods course. Additionally, Selene coordinates teacher mentors with instructional coaches across Pasadena ISD and Clear Creek ISD campuses, and teaches introductory chemistry at San Jacinto Community College. Throughout her career, Selene has been instrumental in equipping teachers with necessary resources and fostering their professional growth in science and technology. Among other accomplishments, she has teamed up with campus leaders to enhance Advanced Placement (AP) enrollment and has undertaken action research projects to optimize engineering science teaching techniques. These collaborative initiatives have seen her present at distinguished conferences, including the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST), presented by STAT.


Distinguished Leadership in Science Education Award

The Distinguished Leadership in Science Education Award is presented annually and recognizes outstanding support of science education at the district or state level by a nonteaching administrator in early childhood through grade 12, or nontraditional/informal leaders whose work supports science teachers.

2023 Distinguished Leadership in Science Education Award Recipient

Sandra Johnson

Sandra Johnson, Ph.D.
Johnson Consulting Service

Sandra Johnson, Ph.D., has more than 40 years’ experience teaching at all levels from Pre-K through university. She is an educational consultant and former classroom teacher with 16 years of experience teaching grades K–5, as well as a gifted summer science program for grades 3–4 at Texas State University. Sandra was the first science consultant for Region XIII ESC, where she worked for 14 years, and she also taught elementary science methods at the University of Texas and early childhood education at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. As an educational consultant, Sandra has written and aligned eight curriculum guides for all grades for six environmental organizations, written articles and edited two books, and developed the first alignment to state standards for Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Project WILD and Aquatic WILD. Sandra has trained more than 2,500 teachers from every ESC region, and her Texas aquatic science curriculum for grades 6–12 sees more than 300,000 downloads annually.


Virginia Woods Award for Exceptional Contributions and Leadership in Science Education

The Virginia Woods Award may be presented in an ongoing recognition of Virginia Woods's contributions to science education in general and to the Science Teachers Association of Texas in particular. It is the highest award STAT can bestow upon a member for contributions to science education. The award is named for Virginia Woods, STAT's longtime executive secretary.

Virginia Woods Award Recipient

Donald Burken

Donald Burken
Spring Branch ISD

Donald Burken graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1987 and earned a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston-Downtown. He began teaching fifth-grade students in Houston ISD and also taught third- and fourth-grade students. During his time in Houston ISD, he started attending he Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST), presented by STAT, and the NSTA national conference. After 17 years, he began teaching fifth-grade students in Spring Branch ISD for 3 years. He then became the elementary science specialist for 8 years, which led to being the Director of Science for 7 years.   

In 2009, CAST Chair Patsy MaGee asked for help to run CAST 2010 in Houston, and Donald volunteered as the local transportation chair. He later joined the STAT Board in 2011 and became STAT President in 2013. He was the CAST 2014 Chair in Dallas and the local CAST Chair in 2017. Since 2009, he has volunteered at CAST in various capacities. He describes being a part of STAT and CAST as an amazing and gratifying experience. 

Learn More About the STAT Statewide Awards