Escanaba teacher gets STEM award
ESCANABA — A Certificate of Excellence was recently awarded to Matthew Oney, a science, chemistry and physics teacher at Escanaba High School. The award brings Oney the honor of being one of seven teachers acknowledged in Michigan as being innovative in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) instruction.
“I’ve been fortunate to get to this place with people who support me,” said Oney.
Oney will receive $10,000 a year for three years. He will use $5,000 to expand, replicate and share innovative techniques he has used in the classroom.
“We are proud to see Mr. Oney recognized for the excellent work he does in the classroom. His combination of innovation, caring, and determination are reflective of the excellent things happening in the Escanaba Area Public Schools, and we’re excited that he has the opportunity to share this with other teachers around the state,” said Escanaba Schools Superintendent Coby Fletcher.
Oney is a sixth year teacher trying to get kids to become scientists. His classroom does not have rows of desks and any instructional books you see are stacked high on a shelf. Oney doesn’t believe in teaching from the front of the class, asking his students to put their noses in a book.
“My students have not used a textbook to read out of in five years,” said Oney. “Newton didn’t have a text book. Newton learned everything he knew about physics by asking questions that could be answered through experimentation and observation, and so that’s what my students do. Those books tell my students how others asked and answered … My students, by the end of the year, what they’ve done is created their own textbook.”
Oney started his studies in the mountains of Colorado to become a biology teacher. After a year, he dropped the teaching side of his studies and focused on the experimental side of biology. He left Colorado with a degree in biology, focused on ecology and environmental science. He decided to go to graduate school and went to Michigan State University’s plant molecular biology program. While at MSU, Oney coached football and got the teaching bug again.
“After five years researching plants and coaching grade level football, I figured out how I could do both,” said Oney. “There was a fellowship opportunity at