Distinguished Service Award &
Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award

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

Dr. Ayo Akatugba – 2020 Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award – Press Release

Dr. Akatugba is the Green Energy Pathway Director for Skyline High School. In the Green Energy Pathway, students learn about the pressing concerns facing the environment and help to identify solutions to those problems. Dr. Akatugba teaches Physics of Energy Science which includes physics, building science, energy efficiency, sustainability, renewable energy resources, and career technical education components such as “green” career pathways.

Her colleagues praise her love for teaching energy! From visits to local companies (like Tesla) and colleges, Ayo goes above and beyond to get students excited about energy and to learn about real-life applications related to clean energy, technology and careers.

A student of Dr. Akatugba said, “Her guidance has­ enabled me to grow and prepare myself for the future. I was able to learn skills­ of communication, leadership and critical thinking. The­ knowledge I gained from her class has greatly compelled my interest to study­ green energy.­­”

Kevin Crosby – 2020 Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award – Press Release

Kevin is in his 18th year as a special education/science teacher and feels science is an area where he can really see that his students are understanding the information.  He utilizes visual and kinesthetic activities with students and provides them with opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Mr. Crosby started a Falcon Autistic Solar Team which became a helpful tool to teach students about energy use, forms of energy, photosynthesis, solar power, PV systems, and electricity. The team was then able to create presentations to share with other students, which also allowed his special-needs students to work on their socialization and public speaking skills.

A student of his says, “Mr. Crosby makes the learning fun.”  With building solar-powered LEGOs, student made solar ovens, and more – he’s certainly creating exciting energy learning “ah-ha” moments!

Erin Zackey – 2020 Bob Thompson Excellence in Energy Education Award – Press Release

Erin certainly keeps her classroom exciting with the nickname of Ms. Frizz! She’s a real-life embodiment of the fictional character Ms. Frizzle from Magic School Bus.  Besides wearing costumes daily, she has created course themes such as, “The Art of Science”, “It’s Electric”, and “Ecosystem Explorers”.  From attending local energy conferences and being a recent fellow of Washington Alliance for Better Schools (WABS), she is always expanding her learning to enhance her courses for students.

In Erin’s own words, “I am very keen on student centered work, and believe that the direction we are going in terms of empowering students to share their work, be inquiry minded thoughtful science learners is a positive one, and one in which I embrace fully in my classroom.”

Colleagues also praise Erin not only for her boundless energy in teaching, but also on how involved she is with her community – from volunteering with scout troops, providing PD for educators, and helping to create an edible garden for Edmonds Heights K-12 School families.

Past Bob Thompson Award 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.

The year 2020 has certainly been one for the books. With COVID-19 changing the learning landscape, teachers have been on the frontlines to ensure learning continues for students. They’ve had to jump out of their comfort zone to learn and adapt to technological tools in this new virtual school setting of remote teaching. We applaud the teachers who have adapted to meet student needs, we thank you for your dedication and we recognize your tireless efforts.

Therefore, for extraordinary work on behalf of students and families over this unprecedented 2019-2020 academic year, NEED is bestowing the 2020 Distinguished Service Award to all of our dedicated NEED teachers and to all dedicated teachers nationwide!

Past Winners:

1983  Donald Duggan
1984  John Fowler
1985  Walt Purdy
1986  Leslie Ramsey
1987  Janet White Castellini
1988  Rich Ammentorp
1989  Ed Dalton
1990  Alan Sowards
1991  Casey Woodard
1992  Paul Torcellini
1993  Kathryn McCoy
1994  Donna Robinson
1995  Shauni Nix
1996  Carol Wilson
1997  Hank Sullivan
1998  Marie Lauricella
1999  Julie Capobianco
2000  Debby Yerkes
2001  Peggy Chamness
2002  Anne Allen & Chyrall Dawson
2003  Larry Richards & Mary Lou Green
2004  Scott Sutherland & John Weiner
2005  Libby Dudley, Marietta Devine, & Linda Hutton
2006  Constance Beatty
2007  Gerald Harrington & Joanne Spaziano
2008  Viola Henry & Irene Brown
2009  Linda Lung, Lena Cook, & Galen Cobb
2010  Tom Fry & Ramona Nelson
2011  Kevin Galligan, Shelly Baumann, Becky Grimm, & Richard Zuercher
2012  John Davies & Greg Guess
2013  Connie Bond, Diane Lear, & Carolyn Wuerst
2014  Wayne Yonkelowitz, Linda Fonner, & Paula Barnett
2015  Robert and Barbara Lazar
2016  Shannon Donovan, Renee Roddick, & Kelly Ann Couch
2017  Audrey Hughes, Leslie Lively, Debbie Pate, & Judy Reeves
2018  Maggie Downey, Mary McCarthy, Don Pruett, & Andrea Schindler
2019  Robert Greigoliet, Christina Kerrigan, Karen Labat, Al Ryan, & Amy Schott