When William (Woody) Savage and Lyn Armbruster first entered John Marean's high school physics class, they had strong interest in science; when they left at the end of the year, they felt prepared and energized to pursue a future in science and math.
As a result of Marean's efforts, Woody and Lyn, who married 10 years later, gained a tremendous amount of self-confidence and a realistic appreciation for the breadth and depth of opportunities offered by science and mathematics. This increased momentum led to their placement in advanced physics and math courses at the university level and graduate school, along with valued academic honors.
It is with this spirit that Woody and Lyn decided to honor and thank Mr. Marean by making a five-year pledge in his name to support the AAAS Leadership in Science Education Prize.
Mr. Marean began his career in science education in 1945 in Fresno, California, after leaving the U.S. Air Force. During his four-decade career, he repeatedly challenged educational norms in an effort to bring science out of the textbook and beyond the test paper. He was invited to represent Nevada in the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) in 1958. The PSSC, funded by the then-newly established National Science Foundation, created a new curriculum designed to give students an opportunity to gain an understanding of the physical world by developing relationships between experiment and theory.
First as a design consultant and then as a pilot program liaison in high schools throughout the United States and Canada, Mr. Marean further honed and shared his belief that experimental and experiential learning are the keys to science education success. He was convinced that out-of-the box approaches to science and science education, rather than studying from a textbook and taking tests, encouraged discovery, understanding, and enthusiasm in science students—and future practicing scientists.
Mr. Marean had a lasting influence on the careers of Woody, as a seismologist in geosciences consulting, with Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and now at the U.S. Geological Survey; and Lyn, as a middle and high school math teacher in both public and private schools (now retired), and also a developer and trainer for Creative Publications, a publisher of supplemental mathematics educational materials.
Through his work with the PSSC, his time in the classroom, and his curriculum development projects, Mr. Marean worked to uphold his conviction that teachers need to offer assistance to students who are eager to try different educational approaches and that, above all, they need to support those alternative methods. Mr. Marean greeted each of his students, including Woody and Lyn, with this open, engaging and approachable style at the beginning of each school year.
Since their respective time in his class, Woody and Lyn, by their own introspections, realized that Mr. Marean was a touchstone of their lives, both personally and professionally. And since reconnecting with him over the past few years, they continue to be impressed by his enthusiasm and devotion to inspiring and educating young people, including their own son, through his personal stories.
Established in 2006 with a generous contribution from Dr. Edith D. Neimark to endow the prize, the annual AAAS prize recognizes high school science teachers for the development and implementation of innovative methods for teaching and encouraging the next generation of scientists. Woody and Lyn's yearly gifts help to grow the endowment to sustain the award and support publicity for the call for nominations.
AAAS is truly grateful to the Savages and is proud to help them honor John Marean and his many contributions to science education.