Rick McDaniel started his career as a physics teacher in East Texas. Twenty-six years later, his primary role has changed, but his passion for science education has not. As the principal of McKinney Boyd High School since it opened in 2006, McDaniel’s leadership in the area of science instruction has earned him the Distinguished Leadership in Science Award from the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT).
McDaniel will accept the award November 7 onstage in Houston at the 2013 Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) before an anticipated audience of 7,000 STAT members from across the state.
With a stated mission to build a community dedicated to advancing science teaching and learning, STAT strives to build and strengthen networks for Texas educators, disseminate current scientific research, provide professional growth opportunities and information about science education issues and establish itself as a resource for science education.
Each year, the organization honors an administrator who has made a notable contribution to science education. As a former science teacher, winning the STAT award was an especially gratifying accomplishment for McDaniel, and one that he accepts with humbleness.
“[Winning] was unexpected,” McDaniel said. “And, it was particularly sweet for it to be a science award. I thought I would at least be in the running for it, but when I found out I was the only one in the state who won, it became even sweeter.”
While McDaniel wholeheartedly supports all of the curriculum areas under his purview, he is most directly involved with science, and his background in the discipline makes him the most likely choice to lead.
“I oversee the science department,” McDaniel said, “just as the assistant principals oversee English, math and social studies. I know what it is that science teachers have to teach. I know the material, and I feel like I can better direct them with a more hands-on approach because I’ve been there and I’ve done that.”
McDaniel has been instrumental in supporting robust MISD science initiatives such as the Project Lead the Way engineering program and the Raytheon LASER Project, which partners MISD physics teachers with Raytheon engineers to design problem-based learning activities for students. He helped procure grant money last year to purchase telescopes for Astronomy, and this spring, he will work alongside his colleagues at North and McKinney High, Jimmy Spann and Dr. Logan Faris, to bring the MISD “Battle of the Blues” Physics Olympics to life.
“In my opinion, Rick McDaniel is one of the best high school principals I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” said McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. J.D. Kennedy. “His leadership is consistent, it is energetic and it’s passionate. He develops an attitude of servant leadership for his staff and his teachers, and in the area of science, he strives to create an opportunity for those teachers to work together to improve and deliver the best possible instruction for students in the science classrooms. He’s just a very positive leader and very deserving of the honor that he has received.”
Each weekday afternoon, McDaniel can be found high-fiving his students as they dismiss for the day, honoring them for their hard work and offering a personal reminder that each one of them matters.
But, in Houston, on November 7, in front of science educators from across the state, McDaniel will be the recipient of one very big high five—a significant reminder that he and his dedication to science education, matter a great deal.
Story submitted by Shane Mauldin, MISD