Camden Hills teacher wins national science honor

Posted June 13, 2012, at 11:27 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — An honors and advanced placement biology teacher at Camden Hills Regional High School is one of 97 math and science teachers nationwide to receive a national award.

Ken Vencile received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the Maine Department of Education.

Vencile has spent seven years in his current position and taught for the previous seven years at the former Georges Valley High School in Thomaston.

The science teacher was recognized for his efforts to allow students to experience math and science instead of just learn about it in a classroom. For example, Vencile established

a course in tropical marine ecology in which students spend 11 days in the Bahamas during the summer to work with researchers from the Island School at Cape Eleuthera. He said one of the things the students do while there is visit coral reefs.

This summer marks the third year in which the course has been offered to Camden Hills students. Twelve students can enroll in the course, which he said is rigorous.

He also is working with the University of Maine at Machias, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental science, to create an independent studies class in which students would spend time out of the classroom in addition to receiving traditional instruction. This proposal would need to have school board approval.

Students who complete the course would receive three college-level credits from the Machias college.

Vencile said he also is working with Maine Medical Center in Portland for a course next year in which students would be in contact with researchers from the hospital via Skype. He said students can see the direct relation between what they are studying and how it works in real-life situations.

Vencile earned his master’s degree in marine science from the University of Maine.

“I have been lucky to work with dedicated and reflective science instructors, and even more fortunate to share my energy, enthusiasm and knowledge with students who are willing to take risks, be spirited, think critically and dedicate themselves to hard work,” Vencile said in a news release.

Camden Hills is part of Five Town Community School District that includes Camden, Rockport, Hope and Appleton.

The honor is awarded annually to outstanding kindergarten-through-12th-grade science and mathematics teachers from across the country. Winners are selected by a national panel of scientists, mathematicians and educators after an initial selection process done at the state level, the release stated.

“We know that the single most important school-based factor in student achievement is an effective teacher,” Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said in the news release. “The fact that Ken Vencile has committed himself not only to great teaching, but to the rigorous Presidential Award process, serves his students well.”

Vencile has worked as a science consultant and has written curriculum for the Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde. He also participates on multiple committees, has served as department chair and has mentored several new service teachers.

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