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Shady Side Academy's Matt Brunner wins Teacher of the Year for geoscience

Tawnya Panizzi
| Thursday, March 1, 2018, 2:48 p.m.
Shady Side Academy Middle School science teacher Matt Brunner is the regional Teacher of the Year, as named by the American Association for Petroleum Geologists Foundation.
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Shady Side Academy Middle School science teacher Matt Brunner is the regional Teacher of the Year, as named by the American Association for Petroleum Geologists Foundation.

Shady Side Academy Middle School science teacher Matt Brunner has been recognized for outstanding leadership in geoscience education.

Brunner was named teacher of the year in the eastern region of the American Association for Petroleum Geologists Foundation. He is among six in the running for the foundation's national award.

“I am honored to be recognized for my work teaching students about energy,” Brunner said.

In the classroom, he conducts a sixth-grade town meeting where students debate the economic and environmental issues associated with Marcellus shale drilling and wind power.

“Through this Energy Quest, my students are able to recognize that there are costs and benefits for all energy sources,” he said. “It is important that students understand the pros and cons of the energy sources that we use daily for heating and electricity.”

Brunner has taught earth science at Shady Side since 2005 and also coaches the middle school robotics, rocketry, soccer and track teams.

The Energy Quest project is a highlight of Brunner's curriculum. His students research case studies on the installation of Marcellus shale gas wells and windmills in communities and they assume roles of developers, town officials, residents or environmentalists. Students prepare scientific arguments and create videos supporting their positions.

The project culminates in a mock town meeting, where students debate and vote on the proposals.

Brunner was nominated for the award by Albert Kollar, a geologist and collection manager of invertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Ray Follador, a petroleum geologist.

The national winner will receive $6,000 at the group's convention on May 20-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The prize money includes $3,000 for educational purchases and $3,000 for personal use. Five finalists will receive honorable mention and $500.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, tpanizzi@tribweb.com or @tawnyatrib.

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