Unique style of teaching puts Oliver ahead of the pack

Science teacher Tiffany Oliver awarded the 2017 Barrett Family Foundation Excellence in Science and Mathematics Award.


Photo K. Corwin

Oliver shares a brittle star with students Bemlak Ambaye (’17) and Lauren Cohen (’17).

Macy McClintock, Managing Editor

Amidst the frenzy of hurricane threats, Principal Robert Bhoolai and Assistant Principal Brian Hoover took a few minutes out of their days to deliver some positive news. Yesterday, during fifth period, they stormed into the classroom of biology teacher Tiffany Oliver and announced that she had won the 2017 Barrett Family Foundation Excellence in Science and Mathematics Award.

“I can’t even fathom it yet,” Oliver said. “There were a lot of really good teachers that were nominated so the fact that I was chosen is so, so  awesome.”

The Barrett Family Foundation is a non-profit organization that awards math and science teachers in the Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Sarasota counties on an annual basis. Each year, the foundation awards twelve math and science teachers with a $10,000 award and an additional $5,000 is awarded to the teacher’s school.

The HCPS Supervisor of Science Dan McFarland nominated one science teacher from every eligible Hillsborough County high school. After receiving the nomination, Oliver began the intensive application process with little expectation of actually winning. As part of the application, Oliver submitted several essays and a five-minute video of her teaching style, which she described as a bit atypical.

“I showed a mix of about 10 different activities that I do. Everything I do is very hands-on learning, its different,” Oliver said. “For example, I teach photosynthesis by running around outside and each student becoming an electron molecule.”

When Hoover presented Oliver with the award, he explained that she was the highest ranked applicant that applied this year, receiving special congratulations from the foundation.

“When you actually video yourself, sometimes it’s hard to put yourself out there.” Oliver said in shock. “I didn’t think they were going to understand my teaching methods, all I could do was send it off and hope for the best. I guess they understood.”