HawkWatch International Education & Outreach Director Melissa Halvorsen was selected as the Utah Informal Science Educator of the Year earlier this month. She was recognized for her work providing informal science education programs and advocating for the importance of informal science education.
Laura Cotter, Informal Education Representative from the Utah Science Teaching Association, shared that Melissa was the perfect person to receive this inaugural award because she is such a strong representative for informal education. “Melissa is always out there, providing educational opportunities, presenting at conferences, speaking out for informal education,” Cotter shared.
Officials from the Utah Science Teaching Association (UtSTA) selected Melissa as its inaugural recipient during its annual conference in early October. She was one of six individuals considered for the award, making this one of UtSTA’s more competitive awards.
Despite joining HWI in November 2019, right before a global pandemic shut down nearly all education programs, Halvorsen has thrived in her role as Education & Outreach Director, according to HWI Executive Director Nikki Wayment. “It’s really incredible what Melissa has done, sustaining our programs in new ways during a pandemic while also pushing herself to make our programs more accessible to different audiences,” Wayment shared.
These pushes include initiatives to tailor programming to Spanish-speaking communities and those on the Autism spectrum. She has also emphasized providing as many free and reduced-cost programs as donors will support.
The Informal Educator of the Year Award recognizes one Utahn who educates students in Utah about science outside of a formal classroom teacher role. The Utah Science Teaching Association, a group of educators that works to improve science education in the state, gives out the award during their annual conference. Recently, the organization has made changes to be more inclusive of informal educators like Melissa, including librarians, after-school coordinators, and more.
This blog was written by Kirsten Elliott, HWI’s Development and Communications Director. You can learn more about Kirsten here.