RSCC’s educator honored

Roane State assistant professor Dr. Sylvia Pastor has been named Tennessee’s Science Teacher of the Year in higher education by the Tennessee Science Teachers Association.

Pastor, who teaches chemistry and organic chemistry at the community college’s campuses in Roane County, Oak Ridge and Cumberland County, was nominated by her peers for the statewide honor.

TSTA Board members select the winners based on their written philosophies and records of leadership in science education.

Dr. Randolph C. Schulte, vice chancellor for academic affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents, praised Pastor for her “deep and abiding commitment to science education and – most importantly – to her students’ learning and success.”

Pastor and the awardees in the elementary, middle school and high school categories of the yearly recognition received cash awards and plaques during the association’s annual meeting at Murfreesboro’s Embassy Suites on Nov. 2.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been teaching,” Pastor said. She helped her younger sister learn how things worked, tutored students in math and chemistry, and was a teaching assistant in graduate school.

She’s taught at an environmental analytical lab, at a nonprofit environmental research organization and as a graduate student at University of California.

Pastor previously was an adjunct professor at Pellissippi State and also taught at Tennessee Wesleyan. She’s now in her third year at Roane State.

Pastor compares teaching to tending a garden. “Just as a plant needs firm roots to grow, students need firm knowledge of basic principles and a clear understanding of what they are learning.”

Pastor’s teaching expertise also includes her coordination of the “Lab-in-a-Box” program that’s part of what’s called the Rural Community STEM Initiative. That’s a business-and-education partnership working with nine rural school districts to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.

Roane State professors create Lab-in-a-Box kits covering subjects aligned to state middle school science standards ranging from fossils to friction, and Pastor organizes workshops for educators to learn how to use the kits for hands-on lessons with their students.

Pastor’s efforts assisted the RCSI in securing a $30,000 grant and helped establish chemistry classes and labs on two additional Roane State campuses.

She’s also a Girl Scout troop leader and encourages scouts to explore science options.

“I enjoy combining my education, teaching background and experience in a variety of scientific environments to help provide great science education,” Pastor said.