Liberal High School chemistry teacher displays her plaque she received as the winner of the Phyllis Johnson Patrick award from K-State. L&T photo/Robert Pierce
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Liberal High School Principal Keith Adams recently received an e-mail from Kansas State University. In that e-mail, the administrator was asked if he would like to submit a name for nomination for the K-State Department of Chemistry’s Phyllis Johnson Patrick Distinguished High School Chemistry Teachers award.
Adams later forwarded the e-mail to LHS Counselor Rita Williams, who submitted the name of chemistry teacher Melissa Westerman, and earlier this month, Westerman was named the 19th winner of the Patrick award.
Williams said in addition to her letter of nomination, others put in recommendations for Westerman.
“I’ve got two current students who submitted letters of nomination, and I even e-mailed a former student of hers who sent a letter of recommendation,” Williams said. “Those letters were sent in. I do not know how many she competed against. They didn’t tell us that. Through those letters of nomination, she was selected as the recipient.”
Westerman grew up in Ulysses and earned a degree in secondary education from Emporia State. Now in her 26th year of teaching, she has taught chemistry at LHS since 1996, where she also serves as the USD No. 480 science fair coordinator.
Her selection as an attendee at a National Science Foundation Institute on chemistry learning cycles has influenced her teaching style.
Westerman’s classes, including honors chemistry, AVID and college chemistry, are experimentally rich, in which understanding of concepts derives from laboratory experiences and demonstrations.
In 2010, she was named the Region 6 (Southwest Kansas) Outstanding Science Teacher by the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science.
The Patrick award is named for Phyllis Johnson Patrick, who earned her degree in industrial chemistry from K-State in 1949 and her master’s degree in education from Arizona State in 1967.
“Mrs. Patrick was deeply committed to improving the quality of education and teaching and was herself recognized by the American Chemical Society as an Outstanding High School Chemistry Teacher in the United States,” her bio said. “An ardent supporter of Kansas State University, she was a lifelong member of the KSU Alumni Foundation, was a member of the President’s Club and served on the Kansas State University Alumni Board and the Chemistry Advisory Council.”