This post is part of ACE's Teacher of the Year Blog series.
To say that Paul Sawyer’s journey towards being an educator has been an unconventional one would be an understatement. A native of Houston, Texas, Paul spent a significant chunk of his childhood in Monterrey, Mexico before being relocated to the DFW Metroplex. There he remained in the Dallas public school system for the rest of his education and went on to become a geologist and a business consultant for a good portion of his adult life.
Having been deeply exposed to different cultures from birth (Spanish was his first language), Dallas schools since childhood, and advanced science and mathematics in his collegiate and professional career, Paul eventually realized he possessed unique insight into becoming an effective inner-city educator. And considering all of the opportunities that he had been provided with, he felt that he owed his community whatever services he could provide, especially when his talents could be used for such a good purpose. Thus, for the next twelve years, Paul worked as a science and math teacher in the heart of Dallas. Even after retiring he found himself to be too committed to stop and accepted a position with the Dallas branch of Harmony Science Academy (HSA – a Texas-based charter school program) in 2012.
In only six months with HSA-Dallas, Paul has made a deep impact, invigorating the STEM programs with a series of speakers, including “industry and education-minded scientists, engineers, and technologists,” a design that is being considered as a model by the Texas Education Agency. Among this premier group was Matt Varvir, DFW Educator for ACE, who gave the ACE presentation to his students this past February.
After working with the ACE program, Paul knew that he had to capture the same energy they produced and focus HSA towards a larger environmental goal. He contacted Dr. Frank Camp, head of Environmental Projects for the city of Dallas and challenged his small group of students to take part in a larger reforestation effort. Within a month they had already cleaned a local park and planted ten trees.
But that wasn’t enough for Paul. Considering the technology focus of his campus, he encouraged his students to proactively begin work on a digital DOT campaign for the HSA-Dallas website. Soon they will have a link to the United Nations global climate change petition, which aims to have a billion signatures by Earth Day 2014. Beyond that, Paul has used his previous professional connections to contact members of the Dallas Water Department and Principal Solar to consider starting his students on projects involving water quality, solar energy and energy reduction in the near future.
On first look, Paul Sawyer may look like an unusual nomination for Teacher of the Year, especially since his school has only been working with ACE Dallas-Fort Worth (one of the newest ACE regions) for a couple of months. But Paul possesses many traits that any ACE teacher should strive to have: he is knowledgeable, passionate, committed, engaged, and willing to go above and beyond to connect with his students. For him, ACE is not a necessity—he will transform HSA into an even more impressive campus no matter what resources he has available. Instead, it is a great supplement that allows his teaching to be more effective, his students’ goals to be higher, and both his and his students’ impact in the Dallas community to be that much stronger. Paul Sawyer is everything that a teacher should be and ACE Dallas-Fort Worth is proud to honor his abilities and achievements.