By Emily Crowe
CNJ STAFF WRITER
John Irwin has spent the past 44 years changing students’ lives in the classroom and on the playing field.
Irwin has been a science teacher and football and track coach at Texico High School for 10 years, and has also taught and coached in Clovis and Muleshoe.
Now nearing retirement, Irwin will be honored as the outstanding science teacher of 2013 by the New Mexico Academy of Science.
“He’s just an excellent classroom teacher,” said Texico High School Principal Elnabeth Grau, who decided along with Texico Superintendent Miles Mitchell to nominate Irwin for the award.
“When he’s not in the classroom or out on the football field,” Grau said, “he gets his iPad and goes on iTunes University and he watches lectures at the college level so he can pick up some new techniques or new information that he can apply in his classroom.”
Irwin said he utilizes hands-on activities to help students get interested in science, doing everything from studying pond water to preparing slides and measuring electrons.
According to Grau, Irwin also has students make up rap songs to remember the periodic table.
“He’s always looking for new ways to present information that will reach kids because he wants them to leave his classroom educated,” she said.
With a little help from his fellow instructors and former students and players, Irwin was chosen as the top science teacher in the state, and will receive the award next month in Albuquerque.
“It really hit home a little bit more than I expected,” said Irwin, a Los Angeles native who played on Eastern New Mexico University’s 1969 NAIA national championship team. “It was a really big surprise to get this because I really never expected it. For me to be put in that category really makes me feel special.”
Irwin plans to stay in education even after his retirement, but this time around he wants to go back to school to take classes that interest him.
“He is a real inspiration,” Grau said.