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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? Deadline is April 1, 2019

2019 Excellence in Energy Education Application - doc  PDF


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
2013 - Erin Gockel and Constance Josvai
2014 - Karen McPherson
2015 - Barbara Lazar
2016 - Joseph Paris
2017 - 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.

2018 Distinguished Service Award Winners: 

Maggie Downey - Cape Light Compact

As Chairman and a Member of NEED’s Board of Directors, Maggie Downey has guided NEED through the last several years encouraging NEED’s growth and development while also making sure that NEED stays true to its core principles of designing and delivering timely energy curriculum, great teacher and student workshops, and hosting the best Youth Energy Conference and Awards and NEED Energy Conferences for Educators that can be hosted. Maggie’s support for NEED goes back over a decade when she and NEED Honorary Board Member Kevin Galligan brought NEED programs into their education efforts at the Cape Light Compact on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Throughout the years, Maggie’s team at The Compact has worked with NEED to train hundreds of teachers, provide thousands of students with energy education opportunities, hosted Energy Carnivals, Fairs, appliance buy-backs, week long NEED conferences and more. Maggie, and the Cape Light Compact, believe that education is fundamental to an understanding of energy and to making smart energy decisions. NEED is lucky and honored to have Maggie’s support and leadership and we look forward to many more years of success together.

Mary McCarthy - Eversource

Energy education in Massachusetts is going strong thanks to the work of Mary McCarthy at Eversource. Mary’s commitment to energy education, especially energy efficiency education, provides the support for hundreds of teachers and thousands of students to learn about energy and how to use it wisely in their homes and schools. Always interested in making sure that learning is fun, Mary has created numerous partnership with NEED, the Boston Globe and others to bring exciting and engaging opportunities to schools. Each year, Eversource and NEED host workshops across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for teachers to integrate more energy into their classrooms and afterschool programs. Teachers enjoy spending the day at workshop venues like the Boston Museum of Science and learning more about the energy and electricity they use each day. Mary has encouraged and supported NEED’s growth as an organization.

Don Pruett, Jr. - Clover Park School District, Lakewood, WA

Sometimes you meet a teacher and immediately know “He is one of us.” Don Pruett is one of those teachers. From the first time we met him at our 2004 Long Beach conference, he fit right in. Since then, Don has been a valuable contributor to NEED’s mission. Don volunteers on NEED’s Teacher Advisory Board and reviews, tests and writes curriculum with NEED’s curriculum staff. His experience as a science coordinator and now as the Supervisor of Curriculum & Instruction, Science & Health at Clover Park School District gives him a unique perspective and great insight into connecting NEED curriculum to changing educational standards. In addition to his curriculum work, Don is part of the national NEED facilitation team leading week-long conferences and one day workshops. He has also helped with NEED’s international efforts, traveling to Thailand to train teachers. When not nerding out on energy, Don is a great story teller.

Andrea Schindler - Urbita Elementary School, San Bernardino, CA

Andrea had her first full NEED experience through the BP A+ for Energy grant program in 2005. We wonder if she knew, when she attended a teacher conference that year in San Diego, that she would be hooked! In the past 13 years, Andrea has gone on to educate and inspire energy awareness in hundreds of students at Urbita Elementary School in San Bernadino, California. She and her students have shown their commitment to energy education as participants in the Youth Awards program over all 13 of those years giving dozens of young students the experience of traveling across the country to visit Washington D.C., interact with other energy minded students and receive recognition for their work back in California. Andrea’s students have gone on to be leaders in their middle schools, high schools, colleges, and in the larger society. Her passion and dedication are truly inspiring. 


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. Lena Cook, & Galen Cobb

1986 Leslie Ramsey

1998 Marie Lauricella

2010 Tom Fry and Ramona Nelson

1987 Janet White Castellini

1999 Julie Capobianco

2011 Kevin Galligan, Shelly Baumann, 
Becky Grimm, & 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, & 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, & Kelly Ann Couch

1993 Kathryn McCoy  

2005 Libby Dudley, Marietta Devine, & Linda Hutton    

2017 Audrey Hughes, Leslie Lively, Debbie Pate, & Judy Reeves

1994 Donna Robinson  

2006 Constance Beatty

2018 Maggie Downey, Mary McCarthy, Don Pruett, & Andrea Schindler