Horizontal graphic on green background with side-by-side head and should photos of three men who are the VAST RISE Award recipients: Left to right is Keaton Beaumont, Scott Markley, and Dr. Jason Calhoun

The Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) selected three Prince William County Public School (PWCS) educators to receive its annual RISE Award for exemplary contributions to science education. The VAST Recognition in Science Education award, or RISE award, is presented to only a small number of educators across all levels in Virginia schools. School administrators and businesses may also be recognized for their support and contributions to quality science education. On November 17, VAST held its RISE awards ceremony as part of the Professional Development Institute conference in Roanoke. These PWCS educators, chosen for RISE awards by the VAST Awards Committee, are among only 13 recipients in the state for 2023:

In the elementary school category: Keaton Beaumont, fifth grade science teacher at Dale City Elementary School, who has been teaching at Dale City Elementary since joining the division in 2017. Before working in education, Beaumont held positions in the private sector and served in the military, holding such roles as Congressional Affairs officer for the Department of the Army and branch chief for compensation/entitlements for the Joint Staff-Pentagon. Beaumont has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Nebraska-Kearney, and master’s degrees in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College; defense and strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College; and elementary education from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.

“I teach to inspire excellence every day in my students, other staff members, and the community around the school,” said Beaumont. “Dale City Elementary School has formal outdoor classroom spaces used daily by the school community. The unique campus and homegrown curricula help students learn about varied ecosystems. I promote environmental literacy across all content areas and incorporate computer-based learning across all grade levels through the development of resources designed to use school technology as a teaching tool. My students bring their devices to school daily. By introducing computer technology, the students increased their Standards of Learning score in science by over 30 points last year. I provide rigorous, authentic learning, and will do whatever is necessary for every student, every day. As a teacher, I seek growth academically, professionally, and personally by setting high expectations for the students that come to my classroom.”

In the middle school category: Scott Markley, eighth grade science teacher at Fred M. Lynn Middle School, joined the school division at the start of the 2020-21 school year. Prior to joining PWCS, he taught multiple subjects at the middle and high school level at Veritas Collegiate Academy in Beijing, China, and later became the classics department head there. Markley has a master’s degree in education from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s in history from George Mason University. He also holds virtual teaching specialization from the University of California at Irvine.

Markley finds creative ways to engage and connect with his students. One includes a stuffed animal named Verne that helps Markley introduce some of the more abstract science concepts and motivates students to solve difficult questions.   

“I go all in with my shared experiences as if they were real life,” said Markley. “The buy in is 100% from me, which encourages my students to do the same. To say I have no shame is to misunderstand it, because the true shame would be if I didn't do it. This award means that good work is being done in PWCS. The award isn't possible without the teachers around me who continually lift me up and inspire me, and it definitely isn't possible without my students who continually push me to be better for them.

In the esteemed science educator category: Dr. Jason Calhoun, director of the Governor’s School at Innovation Park since 2016, has served PWCS for a total of 25 years, including as the supervisor of the division’s science and family life education program for eight years, and as the science department chair at Gar-Field High School for nine years. He holds a Ph.D. in education from George Mason University, with concentrations in science education leadership and in administration and supervision. He has a master’s degree in chemistry from Cornell University and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Morehouse College. 

“At the Governor's School @ Innovation Park, our mission is to engage students in rigorous academic study, challenge them to acquire knowledge, develop understanding, think reflectively, and take intellectual and creative risks in problem solving. Receiving this award is a testament to how critical I believe our STEM teachers are in preparing all our students to have influence and success beyond their horizon. As a lifelong educator, I try to reflect the division values of innovation, diversity, resiliency, and equity to continue to improve opportunities for those in the next generation STEM pipeline,” shared Calhoun.

VAST RISE Awards spotlight the excellent work done by science educators across the Commonwealth. They recognize service to science education in the individual's school, school system, and the VAST district in which they work. The awards are grouped into 12 categories: remote teaching; elementary (pre K-5); middle school (6-8); biology; chemistry; earth science; physics; environmental science; at-risk students (K-12); resource teacher; science educator; university/college faculty community partnership. The number of awards given each year is determined by the Awards Selection Committee on the qualifications of those nominated. Awardees are invited to attend the VAST Virtual PDI and will be recognized during the PDI. Visit the VAST website for additional information.