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Release: Dec. 15, 2000

National group names UI's Yager top science teacher education mentor

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Robert Yager, a science education professor who has chaired more than 350 theses and dissertations in his 45 years with the University of Iowa, has been named the 2001 recipient of the national Association for the Education of Teachers of Science's Outstanding Mentor Award.

Yager was nominated for the award, which will be given to him during the AETS's annual meeting in Costa Mesa, Calif., Jan. 18-21, by 50 former Ph.D. students of his. One recent Ph.D. recipient, Jeffrey Weld, led the effort.

Weld, who received a Ph.D. in science education in 1998 and is now an assistant professor of biology and science education at the University of Northern Iowa, said the nomination process was fairly involved, requiring submission of an exhaustive summary of the nominee's mentoring activities and letters of support from colleagues and former students.

"A half-dozen letters would have sufficed, but I sent out 40 requests for letters from Bob's associates and former students," Weld said. "Not only did I get 39 back, but they were each-and-every one thrilled to be a part of this nomination. Bob has an immense and esteemed record of achievement, respected far and wide in this field as both an intellectual leader and as a compassionate advisor."

The Mentor Award is one of the AETS's more competitive awards. It is given to one person annually who has in significant ways helped new science educators move into higher education, usually professorships at colleges and universities. Since joining the UI College of Education faculty in 1956, Yager has overseen about 100 Ph.D. students, as well as nearly 250 students seeking master of science and master of arts in teaching degrees. He has served as a committee member on countless other graduate committees.

"This honor is one of the most meaningful recognitions in my whole professional life because it comes from past students with whom I have worked," Yager said. "It has not arisen from special projects or publications I have authored."

Weld lauds Yager as an invaluable teacher, advisor, and resource in both academic and professional matters.

"Bob was the sort of advisor that everyone should have," Weld said. "He had immensely high expectations, but provided ample support for reaching such heights. Like a coach who takes you way beyond the level that you thought you could've performed at, Dr. Yager is demanding while he shows the way."

Yager, a biologist by training, has received numerous other state, national and international awards over his nearly five decades at the UI. He was recently selected by the faculty senate and administration of the University of Cyprus to be an adjunct professor. His primary job in that role will be to help select new faculty in science education as the program is further developed.

The University of Cyprus hopes to mount a world-class science education program with a strong emphasis on research. Yager will travel to the University of Cyprus, Nicosia, early in January for faculty interviews. While there, he will also advise the faculty and administration on curriculum structure and research.

In 1999, Yager was recognized for "significant scholarly contributions to the field of education" by the Iowa Academy of Education. In 1998, he was given the Jose Vasconcelos World Award of Education by the Interdisciplinary Committee of the World Cultural Council at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. And in 1990 he received the Governor's Science Medal for Science Teaching.