The Trustees’ Medal Award is the university’s highest form of recognition for faculty achievement. Each year since 1978, the award has honored teaching excellence, significant contributions to scholarship and research, and accomplishments in the development of academic programs and curriculums. The award consists of a bronze medallion and a $1,500 cash prize from the EWU Foundation.
After a 34-year career, Heather McKean, senior associate faculty in EWU’s Department of Biology, leaves behind an amazing legacy as she prepares to retire this spring.
McKean’s legacy to the university includes developing a well-respected science education program, organizing Science Olympiad competitions, generating more than $2.8 million in grants to support students and science education, and educating generations of biology teachers.
Her own career began as a secondary science teacher from 1976 to 1978.
McKean developed the BAE in biology/secondary science education for future high school teachers and the BAE in natural science for future elementary and middle school teachers. Both programs are designed around the premise that our science teachers must have a strong foundation in their subject.
McKean advises pre-service teachers, develops and assesses curriculum for EWU, coordinates with EWU science education faculty, serves as a region-wide expert on science education, and obtains grant funding to support science education.
As a supervisor for regional, state and national Science Olympiad competitions, McKean has brought these competitions to EWU every other spring. In 2000, she was successful in bringing the National Science Olympiad to EWU. More than 3,000 students participated in this event, which usually is reserved for R1 universities (classified as having the highest research activity). Many students ultimately chose to attend Eastern because of their experience with the Science Olympiad.
Over the years, she had been instrumental in securing a Noyce Scholarship National Science Foundation grant in 2010, and again in 2017, to increase the number of quality science teachers in low-income schools. McKean has been relentless in recruiting quality students for the $16,000 per year scholarships and mentor teachers from area high schools to participate in the Noyce program.
McKean is highly regarded as a teacher by her students and colleagues. She has mentored numerous faculty in the biology department to improve their teaching skills. She’s been a leader in developing authentic assessment tools and in helping EWU students prepare for state assessment exams.
As one of McKean’s former students, Drake Haren, wrote, “I feel so proud to say that I was one of Heather’s students – as do many other science educators in the Spokane area do. We gained invaluable experience from one of the best educators in Washington state. I truly wish my time at EWU wasn’t finished for the simple fact that I want to learn more from Heather. She made learning enjoyable and attainable for me. I’m very proud of the education I received. I could never thank her enough.”
In addition to numerous publications, workshops, presentation and consulting projects, McKean has been a member of the National Association of Biology Teachers, National Science Teachers Association, Washington State Science Teachers’ Association, Washington State Science Olympiad, Regional and State Board of Directors, Teachers of Teachers of Science.
McKean is an Eastern alumna. In 1983, she received her MS in biology after earning a BA in education and BS in biology in 1975.