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Distinguished Service and Bob Thompson Awards

Each year The NEED Project receives nominations for the Distinguished Service Award and for the Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award. These nominees are among the most committed NEED teachers, NEED sponsors, and NEED friends. They represent NEED’s mission and philosophy by engaging students in energy explorations, by helping teachers learn how to effectively teach energy in their classrooms, and by supporting NEED with their time and talents. They join a long list of great NEED people who have been a part of NEED’s success for many years.

Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award


Right after Thanksgiving 2012, NEED received word that, Bob Thompson, one of our former teachers and staff members died suddenly. For the NEED family, this loss reminded us of the great times we had with Bob and his wife Debbie and all the fun we had as a team at teacher workshops, NEED Energy Conferences for Educators and our BP Solar Schools, BP A+ for Energy Program workshops and many others. Bob was a key part of our H2 Educate and Wind for Schools programming early on and delivered workshops for us in Illinois and all across the country for several years. When I think of Bob, I think of all the gee whiz moments that happen in science. I also think of Bob's childlike wonder about science, and specifically about energy. We're an organization of Energy Nerds. Big ones. We think of energy as a unifying theme in science. We think of energy as cool. Bob loved energy and loved teaching about energy. He also loved taking care of people. I can attest that I never picked up my own luggage, never had to carry my own laptop bag or open a door when Bob was around. He was a gentleman, a great teacher, and an explorer. As an ultralight pilot he would fly near wind turbines installed in Illinois. As a huge fan of aerospace, he would stand with me in the Avis parking lot at Los Angeles International Airport and stare into the heavens at the jet planes coming in to land. Then there was the time he shoved my ice cream cone in my face. That was funny. It was also cooling since we were in La Quinta, California

It was all science. All the time. Bob explored. Bob taught exploration. Bob energized workshops of teachers and classrooms of kids.

He was special. Special to all of us at NEED and to the teachers and students he worked with over time. Because of this, NEED has established the Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Award that will be given each year to a teacher who exemplifies Bob's childlike wonder of science and energy. The award includes a $1,000 cash grant to the teacher to use as he/she chooses in the classroom and an all-expenses paid trip to the NEED Energy Conference for Educators hosted each July. This year, the award will be given at the Annual NEED Youth Awards for Energy Achievement in Washington, D.C. and the teacher will attend the NEED Energy Conference for Educators.

- Mary Spruill, Executive Director

Have a teacher to nominate? Want to apply?

2018 Excellence in Energy Education Application - 2018 Applications Now Closed


Leslie Lively – 2018 Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award - Press Release

Leslie’s nomination from his former student, Dustin Higginbotham, highlighted the reasons why he is a worthy recipient of this award. He said of Leslie, “My name is Dustin Higginbotham. I am a seventh grader at Short Line School. I have been participating with the Engineer Energy Kids in the NEED Project for four years. Mr. Lively works hard to share his knowledge with all of his students. He then expects them to pass their knowledge on to younger kids by using the NEED "Kids Teaching Kids" approach. While in the NEED Project I have learned strategies on how to conserve energy. My favorite NEED Project activity is when we do wind turbines. While working with the wind turbines I was able to work on STEM challenges by designing and engineering my own wind turbine blades. Then I was able to test them in the wind tunnel. I liked it because we gave presentations and shared our knowledge with other people. We also have an energy carnival every year. We do it throughout the school day, and also during night so that parents can come with their kids.”

Leslie’s colleague, Kip Bisignano, said of him, “For students from an economically-depressed rural community, Mr. Lively serves as a model that learning never ends, opportunities are there when you seek them, and it is up to us to work together in our community to solve problems.”

In Leslie’s own words, “I am a true believer that teaching and learning should be fun. I am a life-long learner in every aspect. I try to instill this into my students so that they have the desire to wake up every morning and say, "What am I going to learn today?" I want students to crave knowledge, I want them to share knowledge. By sharing knowledge that tells me that they are learning. If you walk past my classroom you may say, "What the heck are they doing in there?" My response would quickly be, "We are learning!" My classroom does many hands-on labs throughout the year. In the warmer months you will usually find us outside doing stream studies, animal studies and/or learning about energy. You may even catch us baking in our solar oven.”

Leslie embodies all of the great qualities that Bob Thompson is remembered for in the NEED Project family.
Congratulations to this great energy educator and dedicated friend of NEED!

Mark Case – 2018 Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award - Press Release

Mark’s nomination from his colleague Carol Meirelles, Energy Engineer for Guilford County Schools, highlighted his dedication to students, teachers, and the knowledge of energy. She said of Mark, “I am nominating Mark Case for the Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award. He is one of those teachers that you will never forget. He is an outstanding educator who personifies what every teacher should strive to be. He firmly believes in experiential learning. He believes engaged students who are held responsible for their education will be prepared for lifelong learning. Innovation, blended learning and expansion of learning opportunities are a mainstay of Mark's teaching. His students do not sit at their desks and get bored.”

Carol continues saying, “So, what makes Mark so unique? He is never still! He has procured over $11,000 in grants over the past ten years and used these monies solely for energy education. He has been the school's mentor for the Energy WISE club since the project started in the 2010-2011 school year. His club uses NEED materials to develop student leaders, to help their school understand its carbon footprint and to help the school learn where energy is wasted. An example of one of his activities is when his students measured the light output in the media center and calculated the cost of having all the lights on during the day. They developed a scenario to show savings if the light switches could be rewired to where lights could be selectively controlled instead of an all on or all off situation. They presented their data and convinced the school to rewire.

Mark and his students developed kits that included lesson plans, Learning and Conserving Kit equipment such as: kill-a-watt meters, light meters, digital thermometers and flicker checkers for students to take home and measure energy consumption. Students compiled the data and then suggested ways to conserve energy for their families. Over 400 students have participated in the program. One example of students teaching students is when his students took the NEED Science of Energy Kit, set up stations and taught over 100 elementary students. Another example is when two of his seniors developed lessons, trained the other club members, went to a middle school and taught energy concepts using the NEED Science of Energy Kit. In March, his students will design ramps using PVC pipes, roll marbles down the ramps and teach over 1800 students at Energy Day at NC A& T State University about kinetic and potential energy, speed, velocity, force, energy, etc.”

Mark embodies all of the great qualities that Bob Thompson is remembered for in the NEED Project family.
Congratulations to this great energy educator and dedicated friend of NEED!


Past Bob Thompson Winners
Erin Gockel and Constance Josvai
Karen McPherson
Barbara Lazar
Joseph Paris
Teresa Fulk

Distinguished Service Award 


Each year The NEED Project selects an individual or individuals who have made a significant impact on NEED’s success during their involvement over at least a 10 year period to receive the Distinguished Service Award. The award recognizes a commitment to energy education and a dedication to making NEED stronger and the best it can be. Previous winners include NEED teachers, NEED champions within the energy industry, energy professionals, public servants working for energy agencies, and more.


Audrey Hughes – Hilsman Middle School – Athens, GA

Audrey Hughes has actively supported NEED programming in two states – Tennessee and Georgia!  NEED is always happy to move with a teacher when she starts at a new school. Audrey was a long-time participant and facilitator in the Tennessee Energy Education Network hosting workshops and summer camps for educators and students. She has always lived by example, instilling in her students an appreciation of energy and a love for conserving our natural resources. Audrey has always set big goals for her school programs and her students rise to the occasion. This year, she has two award winning programs represented at the Youth Energy Conference and Awards.  Audrey is an individual you are always happy to see and happy to work with on any project.  She’s passionate about education, kids, and the environment and she works hard each day to provide extraordinary opportunities for her students.  And best of all, she is a great Mom to Alton and Laurel.  We have been fortunate to see Laurel’s talents on the NEED Youth Staff for many years.  Audrey, thank you for so many years of energy, excitement, and fun.  We look forward to many more!   

Debbie Pate – A.K. Suter Middle School – Pensacola, FL

From the very beginning it was obvious that Deborah Pate was among the nation’s best educators.  All NEED teachers have that certain something that shines like an energy source. Deborah believes that science and energy exploration in the classroom is fundamental to understanding the world around us. She brings the Kids Teaching Kids idea to life with each group of students. Deborah never turns away from a challenge and has been an active participant in the NEED Youth Awards for many years, bringing great groups of students to the Youth Awards Ceremony each year. Her students learn, they teach, and they work with others in their school to achieve great things in energy. The AK Suter program is strong because of great teachers and we honor Deborah as one of the best. Although she cannot be with us for the Youth Awards Ceremony, we know that she’ll be here again as soon as she can! Deborah, thanks for being a great friend to NEED and an inspiration to so many.  

Leslie Lively – Short Line School – Reader, WV

To say Leslie Lively is just “active” in NEED is an understatement. Leslie Lively LIVES all NEED believes in. A Kids Teaching Kids approach to the classroom and more. Leslie believes that his students deserve all the opportunities he can provide for them. Short Line students are engaged in energy outside the school as well, sharing their energy knowledge with their peers, their parents, and the entire Reader, West Virginia community. In addition to working with his students, Leslie has been an active participant and facilitator in NEED workshops in West Virginia and has served on NEED’s Teacher Advisory Board helping create and guide NEED’s newest curriculum projects. Leslie’s work with NEED was one of the reasons he was nominated this year for West Virginia Teacher of the Year. We think he’ll win!  Thanks for all you do for students and for NEED.  

Judy Reeves – St. Margaret School – Lake Charles, LA

Anyone who has met Judy knows that she’s a source of energy herself!  Always running about doing great work at St. Margaret Catholic School in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. Judy and her St. Margaret students have taught almost all of Louisiana about energy. Through special events, service learning projects, and more, Judy has made energy and environmental conservation her passion. As a science “nerd” Judy brings science to life in her classroom and in the community. She’s always willing to try new things, explore new opportunities and bring those opportunities to her students. Judy has been an active NEED facilitator, hosting workshops in Louisiana and always leading NEED’s outreach and workshop efforts at the Louisiana Science Teachers Association convention.  And you haven’t lived until you’ve traded Judy at the State Trading event for some of the amazing things she brings to trade from Louisiana. She brings the BEST Mardi Gras beads. Judy, thank you for your hard work, determination, and support of all things energy and environment. We are honored to have you as an integral part of the NEED family.

Congratulations to these great energy educators and wonderful friends of NEED.

Past Winners

1983 Donald Duggan

1995 Shauni Nix

2007 Gerald Harrington and Joanne Spaziano

1984 John Fowler

1996 Carol Wilson

2008 Viola Henry and Irene Brown

1985 Walt Purdy

1997 Hank Sullivan

2009 Linda Lung and Lena Cook and Galen Cobb

1986 Leslie Ramsey

1998 Marie Lauricella

2010 Tom Fry and Ramona Nelson

1987 Janet White Castellini

1999 Julie Capobianco

2011 Kevin Galligan and Shelly Baumann and
Becky Grimm and Richard Zuercher

1988 Rich Ammentorp

2000 Debby Yerkes

2012 John Davies and Greg Guess

1989 Ed Dalton

2001 Peggy Chamness

2013 Connie Bond, Diane Lear and Carolyn Wuest

1990 Alan Sowards

2002 Anne Allen and Chyrall Dawson

2014 Wayne Yonkelowitz, Linda Fonner, Paula Barnett

1991 Casey Woodard

2003 Larry Richards and Mary Lou Green

2015 Robert and Barbara Lazar

1992 Paul Torcellini

2004 Scott Sutherland and John Weiner

2016 Shannon Donovan, Renee Roddick, and Kelly Ann Couch

1993 Kathryn McCoy

2005 Libby Dudley, Marietta Devine, and Linda Hutton


1994 Donna Robinson

2006 Constance Beatty