Known as an innovative leader who thinks outside the box, Peggy Carnahan has spent more than 40 years improving science education for Texas public school children.
Carnahan grew up in Bandera, Texas, where she spent much of her time outdoors among plants and animals. It fostered a love of science that she was eager to share with others. So after graduating from college and marrying her husband, Bill, she made it her mission to instill that same love of science in children.
Jay High School was a brand new school when Carnahan was hired there in 1967 to teach biology and physical science. Carnahan strongly believed in hands-on activities and field trips to places like Big Bend and the Texas Coast so that students wouldn't just learn about science but could actually experience it.
Her approach, she admits, wasn't always orthodox.
If she had students who didn't speak English, she put them in her honors biology class so that they could learn science ( and a new language ) alongside the brightest students.
She had her students create outdoor exhibits to show the flora and fauna of each region of Texas, then invited elementary students to come learn about ecology. High school students guided the elementary students through the elaborate displays, which were an institution at Jay High School for 13 years.
In 1981, Carnahan was promoted to central office and became the District's secondary science supervisor. She left the District after 20 years of teaching, but her contributions to Northside haven't ended.
She now is the director of Our Lady of the Lake University's Center for Science and Mathematics Education, which offers innovative educational and professional development programs for science and math teachers from public schools throughout San Antonio and the surrounding area. Now, she helps teachers teach children to love science, and her efforts have made it possible for hundreds of teachers to earn graduate degrees, tuition-free.
Her impact on science education has been recognized statewide. In 1978, she became the first woman to be named a Texas Academy of Science Fellow. In 1980, she achieved another first when she was named the statewide Teacher of the Year by the Texas Education Agency. It is the first and only time a Northside teacher has earned that prestigious honor. And just this past summer, Carnahan received the Nita Beth Camp Legacy Award from the Texas Regional Collaborative for a lifetime of dedication and leadership in teaching.