When Dr. Ann Holmes was a freshman at UTC, she was struggling to find a class when she decided to try geology at 8 a.m. with the legendary late professor Dr. “Rock” Wilson.

“I was mesmerized from day one.  This school fostered my interest in rocks,” Holmes said.

Dr. Ann Holmes

Dr. Ann Holmes

Holmes, Assistant Professor of Geology in the UTC Department of Physics, Geology, and Astronomy, has taken her passion far beyond the classrooms on campus.  For the last ten years, Holmes has been part of a small advisory board for a group of K-12 teachers from across the state.  They work together to find creative ways to bring Earth Sciences into the classroom.

“We teach teachers the state standard, but then we beef it up with activities—different ways to use rocks in the classroom,” Holmes said.

Her efforts were recently rewarded.  It came as a big surprise to Holmes at the Tennessee Science Teachers Association Meeting when she received the Tennessee Earth Science Teaching (TEST) Ptero Award.  Ptero is a moniker for Pterotrigonia (Scabrotrigonia) thoracica, Tennessee’s official state fossil. According to the TEST website, this fossil “represents the vast geologic and paleontological riches across Tennessee and commemorates their utility as an educational resource.”  One of the educators who endorsed Holmes for this honor said corporations are sometimes given the Ptero Award, but as an individual, Holmes was very deserving.

“In my career of 40-plus years in the classroom, I have only know a very few university professors that take an active role in K-12 education. Ann is one of those few,” said Jim Watson, longtime Hamilton County science educator.  “She is always available to assist in the teaching of the earth sciences in K-12 and at the university level, also.”

Watson feels providing professional development is among the most important ways to support a teacher.

“Ann, as an adviser to TEST, provides that support in a number of ways. She has a leading role in our personal development activities at conferences and workshops where earth science activities are provided to teachers for classroom implementation. Ann is also always available for assistance on a personal level. She was the main university support in helping me teach a dual enrollment geology class at two local high schools. She was the main factor in everything from approval to lab and field activities,” Watson said.

Approximately 200 people who were attending the Tennessee Teachers Association Meeting saw Holmes accept the award.  The plaque she received features an authentic fossil “Ptero” mounted to the beautiful wood.

“It was amazing to receive this award.  I do this work because I love it.  It’s nice to have my work acknowledged and to know people appreciate it,” Holmes said.

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