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Local educators receive highest award by the Arizona Science Teachers Association

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Local educators receive highest award by the Arizona Science Teachers Association

By Lori Dugan

Thatcher, AZ—Each year, the Arizona Science Teachers Association (ASTA) recognizes four teachers from across the state of Arizona as Outstanding Science Teachers of the Year. Erik Hanchett, of Safford Middle School, received the 2011 ASTA Middle School Science Teacher of the Year award, and Lane Walburger, of Pima High School, received the 2011 ASTA High School Science Teacher of the Year award for their outstanding efforts in science education.

Hanchett and Walburger were recognized for their accomplishments at an evening social held at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa, in early October, where they were presented with Teacher of the Year plaques along with valuable certificates for products from national science education sponsors. The following day they were recognized with additional certificates and a slideshow demonstrating their teaching styles and achievements during a luncheon at the annual ASTA Conference held at the Mesa Convention Center.

Hanchett and Walburger also received gifts of $100 each from both Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, and from ASTA. They each also received $100 gift certificates from Science Kit/Wards Natural Science and from Educational Innovation, Inc., and each was awarded two reserved grandstand seats at Phoenix International Raceway.

“These gifts are a wonderful way to help these teachers purchase important tools and materials for their classroom and to say ‘thank you’ for their time and effort,” said Paul Anger, EAC Discovery Park Campus director and regional representative for ASTA.

Hanchett, a seventh and eighth grade teacher at Safford Middle School, has been teaching for 16 years, 13 of those here in the Gila Valley. Besides utilizing “best teaching” practices to teach science to his students, Hanchett is known for his innovative practices, including writing grants to acquire technology for his students as they do field studies. He utilizes the natural resources of Roper Lake State Park and the Bonita Creek / Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area in his efforts as instructor in the Eastern Arizona Science Initiative’s EASI Summer Science Camps.

“I got into teaching because I wanted to combine my love of science with a career that could improve the lives of others,” said Hanchett.

Walburger is the physics, chemistry, and biology instructor at Pima High School, where he has been for 15 of his 16 years as a teacher. Walburger was recognized for his instructional strengths and for holding his students to high academic standards while attaining consistently high scores from his students. He is not only an academic coach to his students, but also a coach out on the field. He has coached baseball, basketball, track, and football.

Visit the ASTA website at or contact Anger Paul Anger to learn more about the organization and how to get involved.