Bellevue teacher’s blend of science honored

Published: October 26, 2007 | 6772nd good news item since 2003

Thursday’s science lesson in Paula Fraser’s fifth-grade class at Stevenson Elementary involved testing human enzymes.

But the question Fraser posed to her students was a broader one: “What does it mean to be a human being?”

That kind of merging of science and philosophy to expand students’ minds beyond the lesson at hand has earned Fraser the first Walter P. Kistler Science Teacher of the Year award by the Foundation for the Future.

The award, which comes with a $5,000 prize, recognizes science teachers who develop and teach science-based programs about the future of humanity.

Stevenson Elementary Principal Brenda Naish said Fraser has a gift for getting children excited about learning.

“She talks about philosophy and democracies, and the reason why people behave and act the way they act,” Naish said. “It’s so exciting to be in her classroom. Students come away with this belief in the power of learning for learning’s sake.”

Fraser, who teaches fifth-graders in the Bellevue School District’s PRISM program for highly capable students, said her goal is to make sure her students go on to think for themselves and make informed decisions. She said she is honored by the award but feels a little embarrassed by the attention.

“There’s a lot of people out there who work hard,” she said.

A teacher for 24 years, Fraser has been honored nationally before. She won the 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Education, and the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Award on genetics, genomics and “genethics” for Washington state in 2000.

She also helped the Foundation for the Future start the Young Scholars program, which taps students to research and report on global issues.

“Paula Fraser is a national treasure,” said Sesh Velamoor, foundation deputy director. “Our hope, in creating this award, is to encourage more science teachers across the country to be innovative and courageous in developing scientific content for their students.”

The foundation was started in 1996 by Walter Kistler, a Swiss-born physicist who started several Swiss and U.S. technology companies, including Kistler Aerospace in Kirkland. Kistler established the Bellevue-based, nonprofit foundation to study the long-term future of humanity.

Fraser will receive the teaching award at a presentation ceremony Nov. 2.

Other Walter P. Kistler awards are given annually for science-based books and documentaries. The Kistler Prize honors a scientist or research institution for contributions to understanding the connections between genetics and society, and includes a $100,000 prize.

Published in Teachers
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