May 23, 2019  

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Two Area Teachers Win William Dahlgren Teacher of Excellence Awards

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A pair of Pine Belt area high school teachers have been recognized for their mentorship in materials science as winners of the William Dahlgren Teacher of Excellence Award through the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE). 

James Brownlow, polymer science teacher at Hattiesburg High School, and Rebecca Hooper, chemistry teacher at Laurel High School, were presented the honors by representatives from The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Polymer Science and Engineering. Both were part of the school’s National Science Foundation Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program.

The William Dahlgren Teacher of Excellence Award recognizes outstanding teachers in kindergarten through senior year in high school for inspiring students in math, science and engineering fields, particularly in classes directed toward the field of materials science and engineering, and general entrepreneurship activities/efforts. Only 20 teachers internationally were selected for these awards. 

Hooper, who is completing her seventh year at Laurel High, said that receiving the award was especially humbling since her students were on hand for the presentation.

“Often as teachers we work tirelessly and in the background to give our students valuable learning experiences that lead to their success and to be recognized for that hard work is extremely encouraging,” she said. “I am also aware that there are many other very deserving teachers out there, and I am truly blessed to be highlighted by the SAMPE Foundation with the Teacher of Excellence Award.”

Brownlow has taught for 31 years in the Mississippi school system with the past 16 being spent at Hattiesburg High. He currently teaches polymers I and polymers II classes. Brownlow considers the William Dahlgren award to be a reflection of the countless hours teachers spend helping students outside the customary classroom.

“Passionate teachers teach for the joy of life-long learning and the ability to shape the future through our students’ contributions,” he said. “SAMPE’s core values of knowledge transfer, creativity and innovation, professional engagement and inclusion, and integrity are perfectly aligned to values we wish to exhibit in our program practices.”

At USM, the RET program’s primary goal is to develop long-term professional relationships between faculty researchers and local teachers by providing meaningful research experiences and establishing follow-up activities to extend the impact of the program throughout the school year. 

Teachers are engaged in a six-week summer research and training program in cutting edge research in sustainable polymer engineering. Integrated with the research experience are educational and professional development programs, including team-building workshops, short courses in polymer science, field trips to industry, presentation skills development, and workshops in developing activities for laboratory experiments based on their research.

Hooper and Brownlow will be recognized during the annual SAMPE International Convention to be held later this month in Long Beach, Calif.