Dr. Salomon Itzá, associate professor of physics at University of the Ozarks, has been named the Western Arkansas Outstanding Professor for 2012 by the Western Arkansas Education Service Cooperative (WAESC).
WAESC is composed of 24 school districts, 50 schools, and more than 5,000 teachers in six counties in west central Arkansas. Its mission is to assist the member schools in more effective and more equitable use of their shared resources and to provide shared services for the better education of their children and youth.
The outstanding professor award is presented annually to a university faculty member from Arkansas who is dedicated to assisting area schools in providing quality instruction and education to the students of Arkansas. Dr. Curtis Varnell, science specialist for the WAESC, presented the award to Itzá during a recent WAESC workshop.
“Dr. Itzá has assisted area schools by providing professional development to teachers during summer workshops, collaborating with the Arkansas STEM program, and working with area teachers in the classroom,” Varnell said. “He is also on the board of directors for Arkansas Destination Space, a STEM competition for students across the state. Dr. Itzá assisted in organizing the first competition in 2011 and it has now grown to include seven areas of competition for more than 2,000 Arkansas students in grades 5 through 12.”
Itzá, who has taught at Ozarks since 2006, said he was surprised and honored by the award.
“I appreciate the award and I am grateful to the teachers, and to Dr. Varnell and Dr. (Glenda) Ezell,” Itzá said. “It was them who contacted me back in 2006 and offered me the opportunity to work with them and local teachers. Part of my post-doctoral training is in physics education. This training has given me the opportunity to work with teachers and prospective teachers.”
Itzá added that the award “reflects the dedication that my teachers and professors showed me, and a chance to share what I have learned about physics.”
Ezell, chair of the U of O Teacher Education Division, said Itzá serves as an ambassador for Ozarks to area teachers.
“Over the past few years he has provided professional development training to science teachers in this area and he is greatly admired by those teachers, as reflected in this award,” she said. “Ozarks is fortunate to have him as a representative to area public school teachers.”
Itzá earned his Ph.D. from Tulane University. After graduate school he worked as a research associate at Tulane in the field of condensed matter physics. Later he pursued post-doctorate work in physics education at Kansas State University. Before coming to Ozarks, he was part of the San Diego State University-Imperial Valley Campus faculty.