Biotechnology Pioneer Fiona McAlister Earns Arch Alexander Award
Fiona McAlister receiving the Arch Alexander Award at the 48th annual Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Summer Conference from David Tan, University of Oklahoma College of Education
Fiona McAlister received the prestigious Arch Alexander award during the 48th annual Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Summer Conference Aug. 3-4 at the Tulsa Cox Convention Center.
McAlister, a biotechnology instructor at Southern Oklahoma Technology Center in Ardmore, pioneered the development of the center's Biotechnology Academy.
Created by the University of Oklahoma Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, the award honors the late Arch Alexander, a longtime deputy director of the state CareerTech agency and the right-hand man to Francis Tuttle, the architect of what is now known as the Oklahoma CareerTech System.
The award is given each year by the Oklahoma Association of Career and Technology Education and the University of Oklahoma to a person who has demonstrated the qualities Alexander showed in his work in the CareerTech System.
"The Arch Alexander Award recognizes CareerTech educators who have made significant contributions to Oklahoma's CareerTech System," said Skye McNeil, OkACTE executive director. "These progressive leaders in program and curriculum development advance technology in education."
Not only has she been an active mentor, facilitating the spread and adoption of biotechnology curriculum across the state, McAlister has developed a formal working relationship with The Noble Foundation and a partnership with the Oklahoma State University Institute of Agricultural BioSciences.
With these partnerships, students are continually exposed to real-world science through field trips, workshops and scientists as guest lecturers. Second-year students are placed at internships in the Noble and OSU research labs, generating data that has been used in international scientific journal publications.
These experiences have led to an increase in McAlister's students' ACT scores increasing an average of two to three points. Some have increased as many as seven points. Her students also pick up on her energy and passion for finding out the whys and what ifs of science and the world around her.
"When you are in the presence of energy such as hers every day, you can't help but glean a bit of that energy for yourself," said William Herndon, former student of the SOTC Biotechnology Academy. "By sharing her passion with others so willingly, she gives her students the vehicle to pursue whatever they are truly passionate about."
The CareerTech Summer Conference attracts some 3,500 CareerTech educators from across the state and is one of the largest professional development educator conferences in the state. OkACTE is the professional organization for the state's CareerTech administrators, teachers and staff members.
Ann Houston, Communications and Marketing Coordinator