2005 OUTSTANDING TEACHER OF AMERICA
Science and Environmental Teacher, Fortuna Union High School; Fortuna, California
Pam Halstead is a Biology teacher. She has been teaching at Fortuna Union High School since 1982. She received her education from Humboldt State and UC Davis.
Ms. Halstead teaches Chemistry, Anatomy and Biology and now AP Environmental Science. Many of her students from her 9th grade Biology class become members of the Fortuna Creeks Project, a nationally recognized stream monitoring and restoration project, run by a high school team. The Fortuna Creeks Project has been operating since 1989. The group performs water quality testing, aquatic macro-invertebrate collecting and identification, spawner surveys, habitat assessment, and works to maintain riparian vegetation, building in-stream structures for the fish and cleaning up trash near aquatic habitats.
On the technical side, the Fortuna Creeks team has developed and maintains a web site and manages a GIS program (Geographic Information System), which they use for mapping and data collection.
With all of these projects, increasing public awareness and raising money go hand in hand. In that effort, the students give presentations and sponsor booths at the Apple Harvest Festival, Salmonid Restoration Federation Conference, local service clubs and have created a Creek Care Brochure. To raise money they sell candy bars, T-shirts, run the concession stand at high school football games and seek grants and awards.
Ms. Halstead manages this group of students and is always recruiting more students to join. On top of a full class schedule, she devotes countless hours to the Fortuna Creeks Project and to the students who work on it.
Fortuna Creeks Project participants often join because of an interest in nature, but then reap other benefits. The web page states that taking part in the project will 'improve your skills in scientific research, communication and computers; enhance the local environment (and your awareness of local issues); earn extra credit in all science classes (except Physics); improve your chances of entering the college of your choice, and becoming semi-famous (TV, radio, etc).'
Ms. Halstead not only prepares her students for the academic challenges of college, but she assists them in planning their goals, completing applications, and applying for scholarships; she writes many recommendation letters. She feels that students who work to improve their physical environment are empowered to improve their lives.