WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley South High School science teacher Catherine Ackerman was chosen from 133 competitors as Vectren’s Outstanding “Be E3 Smart” Teacher of the Year on May 10, as presented by the Ohio Energy Project during their Youth Energy Celebration. The lunchtime ceremony was held in Columbus at COSI. During the event, a team of Ackerman’s students were given Vectren’s Energizer Award, awarded each year to one group of students who executed an outstanding energy-focused program.
“It was fabulous,” Ackerman said. “There was so much excitement and energy, and at least a dozen schools representing their energy teams, from elementary all the way up through high school. We didn’t know going in that we were winning the Energizer Award. That was a great surprise to us when they announced it at the ceremony.”
For three years, Ackerman has been an avid participant in OEP’s “Be E3 Smart” energy efficiency program. This year’s journey began with last year’s Activating & Energizing Girls in Science camp, where Ackerman and four middle school students assembled a light board that could be powered by riding a bicycle. The last year also included participation in numerous other projects and events including OEP’s youth summit and the OEP Dayton energy fair.
“It’s the culmination of the whole year,” Ackerman said, “a celebration of the work we’ve done.”
On her passion for energy education, she said, “”Energy is something tangible. I can take the concepts of energy and teach them in my phisical science class very straightforwardly, or I can use them in my biology class as a springboard to more complex concepts like cellular respiration. If we measure the output of a traditional incandescent bulb versus an LED bulb, the students realize that incandescent bulb is generating a lot of heat. When we add incandescent lights to our rooms, the temperature goes up, which means the air conditioning has to work harder, so we’re using more energy. The students can experience that, and then they can actually compute the cost of the usage for those bulbs. Where the incandescent bulb is cheaper to purchase up front, it leads to far greater energy costs over its lifespan. The LED bulb is more expensive, but its energy usage is extremely low, and students realize they’ll save a lot of money over the next 10 or 20 years that LED bulb would be effective.
“I can take real-life examples like that,” she continued, “and then use them to teach something more complex, like photosynthesis. It makes it more concrete for the students.”
Debbie Yerkes, Ohio Energy Project executive director, described Ackerman as “an exceptional teacher. She’s been an advocate to empower students and help them learn about energy, enhance their leaderships, and one of those teachers that rises above and beyond to empower our next generation of energy consumers. She really embraces the concept of having them understand what their role is in making the future more energy-wise.”
Reach Duante Beddingfield at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter at @duanteb_RH.