Space Coast Community Celebrates Its 25th Year Recognizing Exemplary Science Teachers

Six outstanding science teachers received the distinguished Exemplary Science Teacher Award from the Space Coast Science Education Alliance (SCSEA) last Space Coast Science Education Alliance SCSEA logoweek at a dinner honoring their achievement. The award is given in recognition of Brevard County teachers who go above and beyond to foster a love of learning and develop science literacy among their students.  

“When SCSEA started this program 25 years ago, it was to encourage exemplary science teachers to keep up their great work, and for the community to say thank you for the sacrifices that teachers and their families make. That goal remains the same,” said Susan Schleith, SCSEA treasurer and FSEC educator. “Our outstanding science teachers are the key reason Brevard is among the top Florida school districts in science education.”       

The dinner was hosted by UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center®, where FSEC Deputy Director, Philip Fairey, addressed the teachers with some notable remarks. “The scientific method is rigorous—requiring defensible evidence-based results. Science is not a belief as some claim. Rather, it is a method of discovery that has significantly improved human existence over time. And this is what you do—you teach our children what science is and why it is so important.”

The 2023 Exemplary Science Teacher Award winners are:

  • Angel Alexander, Stone Magnet Middle School
  • Dr. Peter Gay, Astronaut High School
  • Cheryl Hanneman, Quest Elementary School
  • Aaron LeBlanc, Rockledge High School
  • Natalie Marshall, Eau Gallie High School
  • Rhonda Ripperger, South Lake Elementary School
2023 Exemplary Science Teacher Award winners (left to right) Dr. Peter Gay, Astronaut High School; Aaron LeBlanc, Rockledge High School; Cheryl Hanneman, Quest Elementary School; Angel Alexander, Stone Magnet Middle School; Rhonda Ripperger, South Lake Elementary School; Natalie Marshall, Eau Gallie High School. Photo: Sherri Shields, FSEC/UCF.

In addition, Natalie Marshall and Rhonda Ripperger were inducted into the SCSEA Science Teacher Hall of Fame. This recognition pays tribute to science teacher leaders with a long and distinguished record of inspiring excellence in science among their students and colleagues.

Jeffrey Higginbotham, Brevard County Public Schools District Secondary Science resource teacher, Nicole Kuiper, District Elementary Science content specialist, along with Megan Ruben, president of SCSEA, and Philip Fairey presented the awards. In addition to the banquet dinner, each teacher received an honorarium and a one-of-a-kind fossil trophy.   

“The value our businesses, industry and community organizations place on science education makes Brevard County a very special place,” said Holly Abeels, SCSEA secretary and University of Florida IFAS Extension agent.  Numerous and diverse sponsors made the awards program and banquet possible, including Platinum sponsors: Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant and the Florida Institute of Technology; Gold sponsors: Accelerate Learning, Inc., The Viera Company and Wells Fargo. In addition to hosting the event, FSEC contributed at the Silver sponsor level, along with Educational Biofacts, which custom designed the unique trophies. Other contributors include: the Aldrin Family Foundation, Building Sustainable Solutions, Eastern Florida State College, Florida Renewable Energy Association, Trane, Ginger Davis, Guytri Still and Raul Montes.

The SCSEA is a nonprofit representing organizations and individuals who work together to improve scientific education and STEM literacy in Brevard County.  For more information about the Exemplary Science Teacher Awards or SCSEA, please visit

FSEC® is the state’s premier energy research institution. Created by the Florida Legislature in 1975 to advance research, development and education in solar energy, FSEC’s focus includes renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable transportation research, demonstration, and education. FSEC is administered by the University of Central Florida and is located in Cocoa, Florida. Learn more at:

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