Touching the Stars: UT Astronomer Honored for Inspiring Teachers, Students

12 October 2000

AUSTIN, Texas: Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway, a research associate and senior lecturer in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, has been selected to receive the Honorary Life Member award from the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT). The award honors Dr. Hemenway’s years of dedication and significant contributions to science education in Texas, and will be presented October 13 as part of the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching, at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.

Hemenway received news of her selection while preparing a set of astronomy education presentations for the three-day conference. "I am honored to be recognized by STAT, the organization of the most outstanding science educators in our state," Hemenway said.

Dr. Barbara ten Brink, Chair of the Awards Committee, praised Hemenway for inspiring elementary, middle-school, and high-school science teachers and for her commitment to instilling the love of learning and teaching astronomy in her fellow educators. "Dr. Hemenway’s Astronomy Institutes, workshops, and conference presentations have influenced the teaching of astronomy and physics to hundreds of classroom teachers," Ten Brink said. "As a participant on one of her field trips to McDonald Observatory, I can attest to the value of the experience."

"McDonald Observatory is very privileged to have Dr. Hemenway associated with it," added Dr. Frank Bash, Director of UT’s McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. "She is the nation’s leading expert in teaching astronomy in grades K–12, and she has made a major contribution to the scientific education of Texas school children."

Hemenway is currently creating the K–12 educational programs for the new Texas Astronomy Education Center, scheduled to open at McDonald Observatory in the fall of 2001. The programs consist of professional development workshops for teachers and field experiences for students. "Our goal at the Observatory is for the Texas Astronomy Education Center to become the hub for K–12 astronomy programs for teachers and students in Texas," said Hemenway. The programs will align with the Texas education standards for science and will offer teachers continuing education credits.

Hemenway is an internationally recognized expert on creating and implementing innovative training for science teachers and on using science as a catalyst to improve teaching and curricula from grades K to 16. She received her doctorate in astronomy from the University of Virginia before coming to the University of Texas in 1974. Hemenway, who has been the Department of Astronomy’s Director of Educational Services since 1980, holds the office of Secretary of the Board of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and implements federally supported programs with secondary-school science teachers.