science teacher Nancy Snyder has won a 2012 Golden Apple Award honoring her as an outstanding individual who devotes her life to teaching in Catholic schools.
She will receive the award at a May 29 banquet along with a cash award of $5,000, a golden apple statue with a 24-karat gold cross, a golden apple pin and a certificate.
The Most Rev. Bishop David A. Zubik and Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Education Rev. Kris D. Stubna, S.T.D., will present the award on behalf of the Donahue Family Foundation.
“I am very excited about teaching junior high science,” Snyder said. “Kids come back and say how I got them interested in science and that means more to me than any award."
She said she plans to use the money to take a long-awaited trip to the Galapagos Islands.
“It has been a dream of mine for many years," she said.
Snyder is well known at St. Alphonsus School for the science projects that her seventh and eighth grade students produce every year.
Victoria Sledge of Cranberry, one of the parents who nominated Snyder, said, “Mrs. Snyder is a dedicated teacher who gives students the tools they need to succeed in high school and beyond. She selflessly spends hours outside the classroom guiding the students and their families in the pursuit of science.”
This year, her students received 16 first place awards at the in February and five of those 16 students also received six special awards from various corporations, professional societies and local universities. They will compete at the PJAS state level at Penn State University’s main campus on May 13.
This award-winning teacher incorporates labs, experiments and draws upon experts in the field to enrich her classroom instruction. Right now, the students are learning about the “Big Bang” theory of evolution. Parochial Vicar Rob Fleckenstein will join her class for a question-and-answer session on how that theory relates to Catholicism.
School parents with careers in medicine, the nuclear industry, biology and chemistry are often guests in her classroom, sharing their experience with the students.
“I like to make science fun and interesting to the students because it’s fun and interesting to me,” Snyder said.
Last summer, she spent more than three weeks in Alaska including a week onboard a Princess cruise ship with a naturalist and friends.
Snyder has been at St. Alphonsus full time since 2001, and also logged six years there during the 1980s. She is a graduate of Penn State University with a bachelor's degree in home economics. She later obtained biology and general science certification from the University of Pittsburgh, gaining a master’s equivalency.
Snyder married her Littlestown, PA, high school sweetheart George after college.
After teaching home economics and taking time to raise two children (Paul and Eva) and two foster children, Snyder enrolled in classes at Slippery Rock University and got hooked on biology.
Her professor encouraged her to pursue her teaching credentials in biology and she completed them at the University of Pittsburgh while working full time as a substitute teacher.
George’s career took them to Louisiana and Huntsville for a few years, but most of her teaching career has been spent in the Pittsburgh area. Sadly and unexpectedly, George passed away in 2006 before the couple could fulfill their dream of visiting the Galapagos Islands.
Ever curious and active, Snyder enjoys watching science documentaries and credits her students with inspiring her wellspring of ideas.
“The kids know my excitement and it gets them excited, too,” she said.
This year, she added a science program for the school’s new full-day kindergarten.
Recently, her seventh-grade class helped demonstrate the phases of the moon to the youngest students using an orange and a flashlight.
“I’m always searching for creative ways to teach science,” Snyder said.
Outside of the classroom, you will find her practicing her ballroom and swing dancing, golfing or walking her 70-pound German Shorthair Pointer Chelsea.
She is a longtime resident of Bradford Woods and is active in the Bradford Woods Nature Reserve group. At the end of every school year she takes the seventh-grade students and their chaperones on a botany field trip to the Reserve and then invites the children and adults to her home for lunch.
Always one to incorporate faith into her lessons, she reminds her students to give thanks for the beauty of nature as well as for their meal.
St. Alphonsus School, located on Church Road in Wexford, offers the parish and surrounding communities a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade educational program that is deeply rooted in Catholic tradition and philosophy.