When Tamra Lamb was a seventh grader at South Effingham Middle School, Karla Dean was her science teacher. Now a fifth-grade science and math teacher at Mattie Lively Elementary School in Statesboro, Lamb found out last week the Georgia Science Teachers Association had named her the 2016 Georgia Science Teacher of Promise – a top honor for young teachers.
And Lamb credits Dean, who is now an assistant principal at South Effingham Middle, with inspiring her to become a teacher.
“She could make seemingly-boring science lessons, like the study of cells, come to life with her enthusiasm and small-group activities,” Lamb said. “It was then I thought teaching would be a lot of fun and Mrs. Dean really was responsible for that.”
Similar to what she experienced in Dean’s class years ago, Lamb likes to meet students where they are, to give them a shared experience in the classroom, something they can relate to before introducing a new concept.
“Giving them the ‘aha’ moment,” she said.
It’s no wonder Lamb, in her third year of teaching, but first year of teaching science and math to fifth graders, was honored by the Georgia Science Teachers Association during a special awards banquet at the Atlanta Evergreen Conference Resort as part of the Association’s annual Science Conference.
To earn the Science Teacher of Promise award, Lamb and other nominees completed an application process that included essay responses about how they would improve science education in their schools and school system, details about recent science lessons and description of unique or creative lessons they have developed based on Georgia’s science standards. Nominees also had to submit three letters of recommendation.
A graduate of Georgia Southern University with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education, Lamb was nominated for the award by one of her former professors, Dr. Katie Brkich.
“I have worked with many pre-service and in-service teachers in my six years at Georgia Southern University, but none whom I am as proud to have worked with as Tamra,” Brkich said in her letter of recommendation. “She has not only transformed the way her students see and feel about science, but also how the other fifth-grade teachers on the team teach science.”
Teaching, helping children learn, seems to come easily for the passionate and enthusiastic teacher.
“I love science, Lamb said. “I love that I can get kids to love science. I want to be an advocate for science education in the classroom. When I can get the kids to be passionate about science, it opens a whole new world for kids.”
Lamb said that once she achieves that enthusiasm for science from the students, “it’s easy to transfer that interest in learning to other subjects, like math and writing and even public speaking, empowering the kids to apply and speak up about what they’ve learned.”
An Effingham County native, Lamb said she was humbled by the award and, in addition to Dean, credits several for her accomplishment.
“My dad always said there are two things no one can ever take away from you: experience and education. He really encouraged me.”
Lamb also credits Dr. Brkich, calling the professor “my mentor at GSU” with a passion for teaching.
And lastly, but with a special gleam in her eyes, Lamb credits her students. “The kids are naturally curious. I love my kiddoes; they’re really good kiddoes.”
Though Lamb didn’t always know she wanted to teach – she entertained the idea of a theater major and attended Governor’s Honors during high school in that capacity – she has no plans of ever leaving the classroom.
“This is what I want to do the rest of my life.”