2021 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.

2021 Outstanding Rookie Science Teacher of the Year

Taylor Morris White
Katy ISD

Taylor Morris White is a biology teacher and academic biology team lead at Mayde Creek High School in Katy ISD. She earned a B.S. in Community Health and a MS in Health Education from Texas A&M University. Taylor is also a Certified Health Education Specialist.


2021 Outstanding Elementary Science Teacher of the Year

Melissa Tollinger
Frisco ISD

Melissa Tollinger teaches fifth-grade science and math at Riddle Elementary in Frisco ISD. She has been with the district for nearly 13 years. Prior to moving to Texas, she taught geography/earth science at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Pennsylvania State University’s College of Earth & Mineral Sciences and a master’s degree from East Carolina University’s Department of Geography, Planning, & Environment. She recently completed her STEM Educator Certification through the National Institute for STEM Education. With a strong passion for reaching every student, Melissa believes in providing a safe, consistent learning environment where students can feel comfortable taking risks, engaging in productive struggle, and participating in student-centered, inquiry-based learning. She motivates her students to participate in problem solving and critical thinking to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught. She believes this method of teaching will not only promote mastery of the class content, but the development of inquiry mindsets in her students.


2021 Outstanding Middle School Science Teacher of the Year

McKinzie Sanders
Lubbock ISD

McKinzie Sanders began her teaching career in August 2008 at Atkins Middle School in Lubbock, Texas, after graduating from Texas Tech University. During her time at Atkins, she has taught seventh-grade math, eighth-grade math, seventh-grade science, sixth-grade science, AVID, and AVID Excel. She is currently teaching seventh-grade advanced science, sixth-grade advanced science, and AVID Excel. She is one of only two teachers in her district who teaches AVID Excel, an AVID class designed to accelerate the progress of English language learners. McKinzie has held several leadership positions on her campus, including serving on CPOC, on the literacy team, on the Curriculum Team, on the AVID site team, and as a Campus Academic Leader. She has been a mentor during New Teacher Academy and for teacher candidates in the Tech Teach program at Texas Tech. She is currently working as a staff developer and coach for AVID Excel. This school year marks her 14th year in education in the Lubbock Independent School District. In addition to her role as a teacher, she is also a mother to four children with ages ranging from 3 to 11.


2021 Outstanding High School Science Teacher of the Year

Sabrina Ewald
Frisco ISD

Sabrina Ewald works in Frisco ISD at Centennial High School, where she teaches AP Environmental Science and earth and space science. For the past 16 years, she has helped implement and grow the science elective classes on her campus and helped develop the district curricula for these courses. She actively supports and sponsors many student organizations relating to STEM and also mock trial. Prior to teaching in FISD, she spent 4 years teaching eighth-grade science and Pre-AP science in Richardson ISD. During her summers, she was an instructor for the Duke TIP program, a summer education experience for GT students in grades 7–11. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education and Secondary Science Education and Master’s of Science in Education from Louisiana Tech University. In 2021, she was named the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation K–12 National Teacher of the Year and has earned numerous awards in STEM and geoscience education.


Distinguished Leadership in Science Administrator Award

The Distinguished Leadership in Science Award, presented annually, recognizes outstanding support of science education at the district or state level by a non-teaching administrator in early childhood through grade 12.

2021 Distinguished Leadership in Science Administrator Award

Laura Lee McLeod
Frisco ISD

Laura Lee McLeod is in her 33rd year of education. She has taught third, fifth, and seventh grades and is currently the PreK-5 Science Coordinator at Frisco ISD in Frisco, TX. She has served on the Science Teachers Association of Texas board, being named President in 2017–2018. Laura Lee is an experienced educator who is passionate about science education and student science literacy.


Gerald Skoog Cup for Outstanding Leadership in Science Teacher Education

The Skoog Cup College Faculty Award is presented to a faculty or staff member at a Texas college or university who has demonstrated significant contributions to and leadership in the development of quality science education. 

2021 Gerald Skoog Cup for Outstanding Leadership in Science Teacher Education Recipient

Uchenna Emenaha, Ph.D.
University of Texas at San Antonio

Uchenna Emenaha is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research and teaching center around bridging the gap between social issues, science instruction, and students' lived experiences.

Learn More About the STAT Statewide Awards