An Alpena County educator known for using hands-on projects – many involving the environment and technology – to instill a passion for learning and exploration in his students has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Bob Thomson, teaches seventh and eighth grade STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) at Thunder Bay Junior High School, which is part of the Alpena Public Schools.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education awards in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year.
Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $1,500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Each winner also is featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations: WXYZ-TV in Detroit, FOX 17 in Grand Rapids, FOX 47 in Lansing, and WNEM-TV in Saginaw. The news segment featuring Thomson will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Thomson said he was attracted to a career in education by “the opportunity to help others. My classroom has always been about the adventure and learning comes as you explore.”
He said that “learning and exploring” are his favorite parts of being an educator. “I love being able to work with members of the community to create a positive learning experience for my students.”
Thomson said providing opportunities for his students to learn motivates him to do his best each day.
“Throughout my education, from childhood into becoming a young adult, I have had teachers and coaches step up and help me. My goal as an educator has been to create those opportunities for my own students. I see each day as an opportunity to help students find their passion,” he said.
“I served eight years in the U.S. Navy working on robotics and I have used that learning experience to create a classroom that his unique. Through my partnerships with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, we have created some world-class after-school programming that has allowed me to help students find and explore STEM opportunities. I have the best job in the world because I get the chance to help students find their passion for learning.”
A colleague nominated Thomson for the Excellence in Education award, describing him as a “go-getter who is excited about teaching and shows it through the outstanding activities and lessons he presents to his students. Mr. Thomson is an educator who is making a difference for students and our environment.”
“Students in his class learn to love science and investigation because Mr. Thomson takes them out of the classroom and into the real world to learn. He exposes them to nature and technology. Students have lasting relationships with him and they often tell others that he was their favorite teacher,” the nomination said.
“One of the many projects he has led is the data collection for rusty crayfish. The student used that data to create experiments and pursue their curiosity. The goal is to create more questions than answers. The data collected from rusty crayfish will go toward a statewide survey for a Michigan State University researcher.”
The nomination noted that Thomson also is involved in:
- The Thunder Bay River Watershed Project, where he created and implemented a research project that focuses on understanding the effects invasive species are having on local freshwater resources.
- The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary: where he developed and worked with fifth and sixth grade students to build three underwater remote operated robots to conduct research on the effects that zebra mussels are having on shipwrecks in the sanctuary.
- Sprinkler Lake Outdoor Educational Center where he served as instructor and on-site education coordinator.
Camp Green, an annual, week-long camp with a focus on green energy and technology.
Thomson attended the U.S. Navy robotics school, Alpena Community College, Saginaw Valley State University, and Marygrove College. He has been an educator for 20 years, all with the Alpena Public Schools.
Outstanding public school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at http://bit.ly/ExcellenceInEducation or through the websites of the Lottery’s media partner stations.
Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:
- Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.
- Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.
- Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
- Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts.
- Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.