Arizona Educator Named as AAPG Foundation's 2020 Teacher of the Year

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Foundation has named Rebekah Kienenberger as the recipient of the 2020 Teacher of the Year award. Kienenberger is an Earth and space science teacher at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert, Ariz.

Upon learning that she had been honored with the award, Kienenberger said, “I was absolutely shocked when I found out I had received the AAPG Foundation Teacher of the Year award. I know that what I do makes a difference but it can be easy to forget in the moment.”

“Geology has been my heart and soul since high school but is often underrepresented and underestimated in terms of importance in schools. As an educator, it has been my goal to change the mindset around the field of geology and demonstrate why it is so crucial that all students learn about our Earth and its processes in order to better protect our planet and ourselves.”

Kienenberger gives a lecture on-site during a field trip.
Kienenberger gives a lecture on-site during a field trip.

Kienenberger holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from Missouri State University and a master’s degree in geology from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. She has been a faculty member of Arete Preparatory Academy for eight years.

Corinne Jacobson, former assistant headmaster of Arete Preparatory Academy credits Kienenberger with writing Earth science curriculum and grants that have totaled nearly $200,000 for the school. Kieneberger also conducted “over twenty field trips to volcanoes, caves, copper mines, sand dunes, fossil digs and the Grand Canyon.” In addition, she has “spent hours designing and hand-building materials for labs, such as live stream tables and environmental investigations … which give students a way to explore and participate in science through observation and data analysis.”

Kieneberger and Arete Preparatory Academy students  on a field trip.
Kieneberger and Arete Preparatory Academy students on a field trip.

“One of our core goals is to inspire the love of learning,” Jacobson said. “Ms. Kienenberger consistently inspires her students inside and outside the classroom … [s]he is a lifelong learner who brings enthusiasm and depth to the classroom.” 

The prestigious Teacher of the Year (TOTY) award is presented annually by the AAPG Foundation to a K-12 teacher within the United States who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the field of geoscience education. The award includes a cash prize of $6,000 – half for Kienenberger’s personal use and half for Arete Preparatory Academy’s use for educational purposes under Kienenberger’s supervision.

Kienenberger will also receive an expense-paid trip to attend AAPG’s Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston in June to receive her award.

“I am a teacher because I love what I do,” said Kienenberger, “and I can think of no greater good than cultivating the minds, souls and character of the young people who will lead our world one day. Thank you AAPG for honoring the work that teachers do every day, particularly in the field of geology.”

Kienenberger is one of six finalists for the annual TOTY award. The remaining finalists each receive honorable mention and $500 cash awards from the AAPG Foundation. 

The finalists are:

  • Sabrina Ewald, Centennial High School, Frisco, Texas.
  • Carolyn Klein, Westside High School, Houston.
  • Haley Metcalf, Franklin Park Middle School, Salem, Ill.
  • Lynn “Ted” Pendergrass, Taft Union High School, Taft, Calif.
  • Rhoda Perkes, Lone Peak High School, Highland, Utah.

The AAPG Foundation was established in 1967 with the primary goal of providing a source of funding for educational, charitable and scientific objectives, which directly and indirectly benefit the geologic profession and the general public. The Teacher of the Year award honors that intention by giving this accolade to the heart of geoscience educational initiatives – grades K-12. The Teacher of the Year award began in 1996 and has since honored 23 outstanding Earth science teachers across the United States.