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Jason Niedermeyer '01, MAT'05 (left) has stayed involved in research projects with Professor David Craig (right) and current Willamette students.Jason Niedermeyer '01, MAT'05 (left) has stayed involved in research projects with Professor David Craig (right) and current Willamette students.

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Alumnus honored for creative teaching techniques in demanding subject

Jason Niedermeyer '01, MAT '05 recently received the 2010 National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) Evolution Education Award.

Niedermeyer, who majored in biology, has been teaching at South Salem High School since his graduation from Willamette's Graduate School of Education in 2005. He was honored for his unique approach to tackling the subject of evolution in high school classrooms.

The Evolution Education Award is co-sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), and is awarded in recognition of classroom excellence and stylistic dexterity in the difficult field of teaching evolution.

Niedermeyer's innovative approach leads students on a path of discovery — the curriculum allows students to see evolution from an inquiry-based standpoint and draw conclusions for themselves as opposed to being presented with information they cannot necessarily make evidentiary ties with.

"Instead of telling students that we are going to be studying evolution immediately after genetics — and risk having some students immediately object — I provide students with opportunities to discover natural selection the same way Darwin did by taking them through the same paces," Niedermeyer says.

His enthusiasm and commitment to student understanding are widely lauded, especially by his students.

"The passion and enthusiasm with which he would teach — especially when it came to evolution, which was quite obviously his favorite topic — made it difficult for any student not to feel the same way," says Marika Lou, one of his former students.

Niedermeyer shares his fervor in and out of the classroom. He held a school district-wide seminar on teaching evolution, he spoke on the topic at Willamette University's Darwin Days in 2006, and he published an article touching on the topic in Education Weekly. He has been awarded grants from Intel, Toyota, and M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, and was named the South Salem Teacher of the Semester in 2007.

For this award, Niedermeyer earned a $1,000 cash prize and a one-year membership in AIBS. He was honored at the NABT annual professional development conference earlier this month in Minneapolis.

11-11-2010