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Monday, December 01, 2014

Claes Nobel 2014 Educator of the Year: Eric Thiel

NSHSS is pleased to announce our 2014 Claes Nobel Educators of the Year, presented to ten exemplary educators who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to preparing students for success in college and in life. These ten educators are among NSHSS’s student-nominated Claes Nobel Educators of Distinction program that recognizes educators who model the best practices in teaching, serve as a positive influence for students and peers, and demonstrate outstanding leadership and excellence in education, as well as community engagement. Since the inception of the Educators of Distinction program in 2004, NSHSS has recognized more than 38,000 educators worldwide. Claes Nobel, senior member of the Nobel family that established the Nobel Prizes, and Chair of the NSHSS Advisory Board, reflects, “I am proud to honor these top ten educators and announce the 2014 Educator of the Year. This program embraces my family’s tradition of recognizing world class minds and supports the vision of NSHSS to help students build on academic success and grow the skills and desire to have a positive impact in the global community.”

A selection committee of notable academics and educators – including a college president, a university admissions officer, college guidance counselor, and the previous Educators of the Year – joined NSHSS Advisory Board Chair Claes Nobel in reviewing the nominations. Eric Thiel, an AP Biology teacher and Science Department Chair at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, CA, has been distinguished as the 2014 Claes Nobel Educator of the Year. Mr. Thiel earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from California State University Hayward, and he also has a Master of Science degree in Educational Technology.

Eric Thiel Photo

An educator for 35 years, Mr. Thiel initiated the AP Biology curriculum at Amador Valley High School 21 years ago. The program has grown from 23 students to 187 students. In addition to serving as a Mentor Teacher for two years, Mr. Thiel has conducted workshops and seminars on emerging educational technology for teachers in the Santa Clara Unified School District, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and at Colegio San Ignacio De Loyola in Puerto Rico. He also created and maintained the nationally-recognized Arroyo Del Valle "Project Creek Watch" website and the Amador Valley High School website. Mr. Thiel is the recipient of numerous accolades, including the PTA Excellence in Education Award, the Bank of America Local Hero Award, and the Johns Hopkins SDB Fellowship Award. Over the course of his career, Mr. Thiel has been named the Teacher of the Year four times by organizations such as the California Technology Assistance Project Region IV, the Pleasanton Unified School District, and Radio Shack, as the National Technology Teacher of the Year.

Mr. Thiel’s teaching philosophy reflects his belief that stewardship and balance are essential to success in all aspects of life. He not only teaches his students difficult biological concepts, but he also strives to improve his students’ decision-making skills. Though Mr. Thiel is most fulfilled when students continue on to college and declare a major in a field of science, his high school students directly reflect, if not their passion, their adeptness in Biology by their impeccable performance in standardized testing. Ninety-nine percent of Mr. Thiel’s students passed the AP exam last May, and 27% scored a 5 out of 5. Mr. Thiel explains, “Exciting students about biology is my ultimate goal and if I can do that while adequately preparing them for state and national exams, then and only then do I have some sense accomplishment. Increasing numbers of students selecting biology as their major accompanied by email messages from past students currently in college thanking me for properly preparing them is the greatest reward.”  His nominating student wrote, “Mr. Thiel has been a wonderful and intelligent teacher. He created the program Project Creek Watch while organizing trips to a local creek with his Biology classes in order to clean up the environment and to find out more information about the wildlife there. He displays great knowledge of Biology and has been a terrific teacher who really is interested in his kids' future. Mr. Thiel is an excellent nominee.”

Mr. Nobel is presenting Eric Thiel with a plaque and an award of $5,000 at The Carter Center Member Event in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 6, 2014.

The following finalists are recognized as 2014 NSHSS Top Ten Educators receiving an award of $500 to further educational initiatives at their respective schools.

Amy Baker, Marketing Teacher Frenship High School, Wolfforth, TX
Kenneth Bernstein, Social Studies Teacher Catonsville High School, Catonsville, MD
John Carnesecca, Social Science Department Chair Great Oak High School, Temecula, CA
Ana Castro, Spanish Teacher DuPont Manual High School, Louisville, KY
Ronald Hamme, Arts and Humanities Teacher Upper Dauphin Area High School, Elizabethville, PA
Michael Madden, U.S. History/Global Studies Seminar Teacher William P. Clements High School, Sugar Land, TX
Audrey Schindler McDonald, English/Language Arts Teacher East Boston High School, East Boston, MA 
Shane Scott, Director, Strategy and Sustainability Jerusalem School, Jerusalem, Israel
Erin Smith, English Teacher Spring Ridge Academy, Spring Valley, AZ