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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? 

2020 Excellence in Energy Education Application (coming soon)


Nina Corley – 2019 Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award - Press Release
Nina’s colleagues praise her for integrating energy across the curriculum as well as her involvement in the Galveston community. She exemplifies the “Kids Teaching Kids” philosophy. Nina’s students help teach energy to elementary students, built an outdoor garden classroom, and have received recognition the past four years as a winning secondary level school for the state of Texas for their environmental projects. Her students demonstrate the science behind recycling at local museums and farmers markets and won first place at last year’s Recycle Rally for their development of a recycling program.
Her energy as an educator and NEED teacher is top notch! Her principal, Patti Abbott, describes Nina as, “an exceptional team member, outstanding teacher, and a model of lifelong learning who has a major positive impact on students in her class and beyond.”


Greg Holman – 2019 Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award - Press Release
Colleagues agree Greg is known for his strong science program and involvement in the community. He’s also a long time 4H leader, active volunteer fireman, and community volunteer. His deep passion for teaching is infectious and he constantly seeks out new ideas to engage his students and encourage them to be stewards of our resources by utilizing their knowledge to create a sustainable lifestyle. Greg has a true passion for energy science and energy education.

Greg showed remarkable dedication to his community and students when the Camp Fire destroyed Paradise in November 2018. Greg’s team from Paradise Intermediate set up shop in an empty store front at the Chico Mall.  With support from NEED staff and donations, he had students working on exciting labs and activities, which brought smiles, laughter and important science information across at such an important time. Greg’s taken the loss of his classroom as an opportunity to create a new, stronger, science program with a focus on wind energy.

As his fellow teacher, Linda Cassady, says, “Greg Holman is an outstanding science teacher and focused on renewable energy “before it was cool”!”
Connie Michael – 2019 Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award - Press Release

Connie’s nomination from her colleagues describe her as dedicated, knowledgeable, and supportive. Freida Nellis, Special Education Teacher at Crow Agency Public School, praises Connie on her dedication to students and their education. She said, “Mrs. Michael is constantly searching for new techniques, strategies, and resources to best support her students. She has hands on experiences and interactive learning opportunities often in the classroom.”  Her principal, Jason Cummins, describes Connie’s teaching style as engaging, contagious enthusiasm, and community involved. From her students learning how the turbines of nearby Yellowtail dam utilize the flow of water to help power the community to learning how the Crow Reservation coal mine used to provide heat for their school, Mrs. Michael is constantly coming up with science activities to excite her students and guide them in their discovery and knowledge of energy.


A big shoutout and thank you to these three winners for embodying the great qualities that Bob Thompson is remembered for in the NEED Project family. Congratulations!

Past Bob Thompson Winners:
2013 - Erin Gockel and Constance Josvai
2014 - Karen McPherson
2015 - Barbara Lazar
2016 - Joseph Paris
2017 - Teresa Fulk
2018 - Leslie Lively and Mark Case
2019 - Nina Corley, Greg Holman, and Connie Michael

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.

Past Winners:

1983  Donald Duggan 2000  Debby Yerkes

2017  Audrey Hughes, Leslie
          Lively,Debbie Pate, &
          Judy Reeves
1984  John Fowler 2001  Peggy Chamness

2018  Maggie Downey, Mary   
          McCarthy, Don Pruett, &
          Andrea Schindler
1985  Walt Purdy 2002  Anne Allen & Chyrall Dawson

2019  Robert Greigoliet, Christina  
          Kerrigan, Karen Labat, Al  
          Ryan, & Amy Schott
1986  Leslie Ramsey 2003  Larry Richards &
          Mary Lou Green
1987  Janet White Castellini 2004  Scott Sutherland &
          John Weiner
1988  Rich Ammentorp 2005  Libby Dudley, Marietta   
          Devine, & Linda Hutton
1989  Ed Dalton 2006  Constance Beatty  
1990  Alan Sowards 2007  Gerald Harrington &
          Joanne Spaziano
1991  Casey Woodard 2008  Viola Henry & Irene Brown  
1992  Paul Torcellini 2009  Linda Lung, Lena Cook,
          & Galen Cobb
1993  Kathryn McCoy 2010  Tom Fry & Ramona Nelson  
1994  Donna Robinson 2011  Kevin Galligan, Shelly
          Baumann, Becky Grimm, &   
          Richard Zuercher
1995  Shauni Nix 2012  John Davies & Greg Guess  
1996  Carol Wilson 2013  Connie Bond, Diane Lear,
          & Carolyn Wuerst
1997  Hank Sullivan 2014  Wayne Yonkelowitz, Linda   
          Fonner, & Paula Barnett
1998  Marie Lauricella 2015  Robert and Barbara Lazar  
1999  Julie Capobianco 2016  Shannon Donovan, Renee   
          Roddick, & Kelly Ann Couch