In 1991, Ron Howell had a plan to create more interest in the physical sciences among elementary school students.
So with the help of education Professors Charles Funkhouser and Judy Reinhartz, he formed the Science Institute for Elementary Science Teachers at UTA.
“The purpose of the institute was the enrichment or re-education of elementary school teachers in techniques of teaching chemistry and physics that would interest more students in the physical sciences,” Howell explained.
Dr. Reinhartz was the primary instructor for the first class of 25 teachers. Howell donated $2,000, and his company, Johnson & Johnson, double matched his donation to provide the $6,000 needed.
For the next four years, Reinhartz received a $50,000 Eisenhower Grant to fund the program while Howell continued to help teach the class and provide graduation gifts for the students. Howell, who spent 20 years managing the Johnson & Johnson research analytical group, is now focusing on eliminating the dropout rate of science students after the eighth grade.
“During the mid-1990s, I worked on the CREST (Creative Redesign of Education Systems in Texas) project,” he noted. “This project was designed to move teacher training from the college classroom to the public school classroom.”
Howell recently submitted a design for an additional science enrichment class for middle school and junior high school teachers, and he encourages people who want students to get a better education to become involved in the public schools. “Find out their strengths and weaknesses. If they have an education foundation, get on the board. Visit your children’s teachers’ classrooms and see what their needs are.”
“I want better educated elementary and junior high school teachers so they are more comfortable and able to teach the physical sciences to interest more students in a science career,” he said. “And we need more nursing students. Scholarships entice more minority students into nursing.”
For graduates, he offers this advice: “Stay in contact with your university. If you are a college graduate, stay informed on the latest trends in education. Remember, one person can make a difference.”