A Statesboro High School teacher already celebrated among students and peers was presented with national distinction Wednesday.
Science teacher Richard McCombs was announced the 2013 National Co-Teacher of the Year by SECME Inc. (formerly the Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering) for his achievements in, and out of, the classroom.
Every year, SECME recognizes K-12 educators who have demonstrated leadership ability in advancing student development and outcomes in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
McCombs learned of the honor via a surprise announcement during the school’s weekly faculty meeting.
“When (Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson) announced the award, they floored me,” McCombs said. “I was quite honored. To be selected for this is just awesome.”
McCombs became the 32nd teacher to receive the SECME award and will share the national title with Dawn DeWitt from Palm Springs Community Middle School in Palm Beach County, Fla. McCombs and DeWitt will be recognized during the 37th Annual SECME Summer Institute at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.
According to a statement released by SECME, both educators “demonstrated exemplary accomplishments in building and/or sustaining a successful SECME school program through creative and enriching curricular/extracurricular activities, thereby increasing the number of historically underrepresented students who are interested in, and academically prepared for, studies in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).”
McCombs, a four-time district Teacher of the Year, has coached two SECME student bottle rocket teams to national championship titles in the last three years. He’s also led the school’s Vex Robotics and Mousetrap Car Teams to top-five national championship finishes in 2012, according to Hayley Greene, the public relations and marketing specialist for Bulloch County Schools.
For five years in a row, Statesboro High School’s SECME teams have advanced to nationals by sweeping all four high school categories at the state SECME competitions, she said.
“(The honor) is the epitome of what I do, but my kids do all of the things that make me look good,” McCombs said. “To just teach in a classroom for 90 minutes -- anybody can do that. But take children outside and teach them to build something that actually works. That is what the world is going to need. We need to do more the just read out of a textbook.”
McCombs coaches and travels with a total of six extracurricular clubs and activities: Chess Club, Science Quiz Bowl, Science Fair, Science Olympiad, SECME and Odyssey of the Mind.
“'What’s in it for me?' is what most people ask in this age, but (McCombs) wants to know how it can benefit students,” Statesboro High Principal Marty Waters said. “To him, extracurricular competitions provide the practical application of classroom instruction as well as the soft skills that are needed for college and career readiness such as critical thinking skills, resourcefulness, teamwork and time management. He epitomizes the servant's heart mentality and is an example of the inspirational teachers with whom we are fortunate to work.”
McCombs also was a finalist for the national SECME award in 2006.
He said the national distinction ranks high on his list of accomplishments, which also includes multiple Bulloch County STAR Teacher honors. He said the award would not have been possible without contributions from all of his teaching peers.
“(McCombs) has been a real leader and an incredible teacher. He makes science relevant for our students and goes beyond what is expected to help students,” Wilson said. “We are very fortunate to have him here in Bulloch County.”
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.