NEWS

Robbie Evans, ’13, earns White House Presidential Award

Apr 15, 2022 | Alumni, Education, General News

Robbie Evans, a 2013 graduate of Louisiana Tech through the University’s alternative certification program, has spent the past 10 years of his professional life pouring into the students of his “other” alma mater, Sterlington Middle School.

Robbie EvansBecause of his “outstanding contributions to the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science,” Evans has received the K-6 Science Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

Administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the program honors the most outstanding K-12 STEM educators with this prestigious award.

The honorees were celebrated in a virtual PAEMST announcement ceremony, in conjunction with the White House OSTP, in February.

“Being honored with the Presidential Award is truly a humbling experience,” said Evans, who graduated from ULM with a degree in journalism in 1992 and spent two decades as a journalist before deciding he “needed a career change and new challenges,” which led to his Tech MAT degree and his career teaching tomorrow’s leaders.

“To win this award requires excellence in many areas of the science classroom, and the only way to achieve that high standard is hard work and dedication year after year,” he said. “Our students deserve teachers who work every day toward excellence, and this award not only reflects on my commitment, but also on the students, school administration, and district support that have helped me strive to continue to grow as a science teacher.”

The price he paid to follow his calling is inspirational by any barometer.

Evans was a reporter and senior writer for The News-Star in Monroe for 18 years when he decided on a career change and discovered Tech’s alternative certification program, a pathway toward teacher certification. Because his undergraduate grades were a self-described “dismal,” he spent two years taking and retaking classes to get his GPA high enough to get into the program.

“Some semesters were a challenge — five classes, including physics, chemistry, and geology — while working a news beat 40-to-50 hours a week,” he said. “I did take a pay cut to teach, but it was worth it.

“The daily grind is tough,” he said, “but seeing kids finally understand what you are teaching — that ‘Aha!’ moment in their faces a couple of times a week — that makes it worth it.”

Determining the precise impact is impossible, but his gene pool played a substantial role on both his decision to become a teacher in career midstream and on his influence over students. His sister is a special education teacher, and his father Archie, a teacher, principal, and coach for 34 years, has been “the best inspiration for me as an educator,” Evans said.

“He actually taught me and coached me in junior high and high school,” he said. “He cared about his students, told them stories in class — which made class fun — and was generally just a good, all-around educator.”

A former coach like his dad, Evans got the opportunity to “get out of coaching so I could focus on academics” and teaches only science now.

“I have always been a science nerd,” he said. “We have no textbooks, which is OK because in my classroom, we do a lot of model design and hand-on activities, which is engaging for the students…Science can be fun for them.”

The pandemic actually helped him become a more effective teacher because it “pushed me to learn how to use different digital platforms to teach,” he said. “During the height of the pandemic, I had to teach in-school students as well as virtual students, which forced me to learn to engage students online. I learned to use different digital applications to engage students, which I still use today in the classroom.”

His application for the Presidential Award was 26 written pages and took him more than 80 hours to complete.

“The district nominated me in January 2020, and then COVID-19 hit,” he said. “I turned in my application in October 2020, was named one of two state finalists for science in December 2020, then had to suffer and wait until February 2022 for the award announcement by the White House.”

It’s not science, but it’s been said that good things come to those who wait.

“It means a lot,” Evans said, “because it’s validation from your peers and other experts you’ve never met that makes this award satisfying.”

Evans also serves in the Ouachita Parish School Systems Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) cohort, a districtwide initiative to improve the reading and writing skills of students. As part of the LDC team, Evans has developed and delivered presentations on literacy design to school faculty and teachers across the school system during district in-services and also has created exemplary science literacy modules available to all sixth-grade science teachers across the district.

He was the 2017 Sterlington Middle School Teacher of the Year and is a teacher representative on his school’s Leadership Team.