CONTACT: STEPHEN PRADARELLI
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Oct. 18, 2002
Science education doctoral candidate named top teacher by USA Today
Ibarra, a science teacher at West Branch Middle School and a doctoral candidate
in the University of Iowa College of Education, is one of only 20 teachers
and teaching teams nationwide selected by USA Today for its 2002 All-USA Teacher
An article announcing the news appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 17 print edition
of USA Today. The article is also available online at http://www.usatoday.com/news/2002-10-16-allstar-first-team.htm.
USA Today selected 18 individuals and two instructional teams from among
hundreds of nominees nationwide, based on what the paper considered their
success at educating the "total child." According to an article
on the honorees, the teachers selected "embody the notion of reaching
out to every child, in ways that can and can't be measured by standardized
Team members will receive trophies and $2,500 for each of their schools.
A teacher for 27 years, Ibarra received his bachelor's and master's degrees
from the University of Iowa, both in science education, and he plans to complete
his requirements for a Ph.D.
Ibarra, who teaches sixth- and seventh-grade general and earth science,
was nominated for the team by Nancy Schmitz, a former principal of West Branch
Middle School, in large part because of his hands-on approach to science education.
As USA Today reports, Ibarra and his students have analyzed the cost of conventional
versus fluorescent lighting in the West Branch School District, studied the
environmental impact of used automobile oil filters, are planning to build
miniature solar cars that may soon take part in a national competition and
are coordinating a project with students in Japan that involves the construction
of Lego-based rovers that will be controlled over the Internet.
Since 1992, Ibarra has won nearly $500,000 in grants. And his research into
his school district's lighting costs led to the district switching to fluorescent
lights, saving taxpayers $1,000 a month. The project was cited by President
Clinton in a 1997 speech in his address on Global Climate Change.
Ibarra is modest about his successes, including the USA Today recognition.
"It's a great honor," Ibarra says. "But I also know that
we represent many other outstanding teachers who do as good or better job
than I do."
"I know I'm probably the best teacher in my classroom, so that's all
I have to worry about," he adds.
Ibarra credits the UI College of Education for inspiring him to make science
education more meaningful to his students. He says John Dunkhase, a lecturer
in the college's science education program and coordinator of the program's
graduate outreach efforts, "probably made me who I am."
He said Dunkhase taught him to encourage students to seek the answers to
scientific questions using inquiry rather than by taking what Ibarra calls
a "cookbook approach" to science by simply following some "recipe"
outlined in a textbook.
Ibarra also credits science education professor Edward Pizzini for teaching
him the importance of research and the need to examine problems from multiple
Those skills have come in handy over the years, not only in the classroom
but in planning some of Ibarra's more ambitious projects. The miniature solar
car race, which Ibarra spearheaded with the help of a $200,000 sponsoring
grant from the Iowa Energy Center, involved 100 Iowa teachers and more than
10,000 middle school students over five years.
Now that that's out of the way, Ibarra is preparing for a regional miniature
solar car race next May in West Branch, one of 16 sites nationwide. Winners
at the regional level will compete in a national race in June in Golden Springs,