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Local teacher honored for sparking student interest in earth sciences
Turlock High School geosciences and advanced placement environmental science teacher Ryan Hollister was named an Outstanding Earth Science Teacher for his contribution in stimulating the interest in earth sciences in his students. - photo by Photo Contributed

Students who take one of Ryan Hollister’s classes at Turlock High School do not just get a run-of-the-mill science lesson.

“Once they take my class, they never see the world the same. Questions unfold before their eyes,” said Hollister. “I have kids come back and tell me they were driving to Don Pedro and saw rocks on the side of the road and wondered what caused them to be there.

“They become more discerning and thoughtful,” continued Hollister.

The impact that Hollister has had on his students has not gone unnoticed as the geoscience and advanced placement environmental science teacher was recently named one of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers Outstanding Earth Science Teachers for the Far Western Section. 

This award is given to one teacher in each of NAGT’s 10 regional sections for “exceptional contributions to the stimulation of interest in the earth sciences at the pre-college level.”

 “This means that all the hard work that my wife and I have put into this curriculum and this District is paying off,” said Hollister. “In geoscience we are teaching future generations to be more aware of their surroundings and environment.”

Although Hollister said that he has always been curious about earth sciences, it wasn’t until he took a geoscience class at Modesto Junior College that got him interested in the discipline. During this course, Hollister went on a two-week field study in the Pacific Northwest.

“That’s what really sparked my interest,” said Hollister. “After that, I got my credential and took a bunch of other geoscience classes.”

Hollister, who has been teaching at THS for 12 years, described his teaching style as “energetic and place-based,” meaning that his curriculum is relevant to his students’ surroundings.

“Everything is relevant,” said Hollister. “I bring a lot of hiking photos, personal experiences, rock samples—anything that I can bring from outside into the classroom to make the subject matter more tangible and meaningful for students.

 “I just hope that these things, such as my photos and experiences, will inspire my students to want to see it themselves,” continued Hollister.

Together with his wife, Laura Hollister, who is an earth science teacher at Pitman High School, Hollister is also an advisor of the WildLink Club. Through this club, the husband-and-wife duo has taken over 150 students from both high school sites on “empowering and educational week-long expeditions” through Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Hollister will be officially recognized at an award luncheon at California State University, Bakersfield next month as part of NAGT’s regional conference. He will also be highlighted in the next issue of NAGT’s news magazine, “In the Trenches.”