SMH Teacher Named 2021 Outstanding Biology Teacher for Texas

Saint Mary’s Hall (SMH) Middle School Science Teacher Patricia Nicoll discovered her love of marine biology as a student at Rice University. Taking part in a Sea Semester program in Massachusetts, the experience led to her first career path of working with marine mammals at Sea World of Texas after graduating. Little did she know her appreciation of animals and ecosystems, as well as her fieldwork and research, would evolve into a lifelong career and passion for teaching.

“Fundamentally, I am a life-long learner who finds joy in the biological world and continues to explore it,” shared Nicoll. “There are two main themes to my teaching philosophy - critical thinking and appreciation of life.”

Nicoll was recently recognized for her exceptional teaching and dedication to her craft and her students. She was named a 2021 Outstanding Biology Teacher by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), in conjunction with Carolina Biological Supply Company and the Texas Association of Biology Teachers (TABT). With 25 years of teaching experience, Nicoll has taught Form 7 Life Science at SMH since 1997. She also serves as a consultant with The College Board and Laying the Foundation, Inc.

Patti Nicoll Teaching

Teaching ability, experience, innovation, initiative, positive student-teacher interactions, and cooperativeness in the school and community are criteria for earning the distinction. Awarded annually since 1961, the honor recognizes a teacher from each of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, other U.S. Territories, and Canada who have made invaluable contributions to their profession and have enhanced the learning of biology.

“I am thankful for this award, but not just for the honor. The award application process allowed me to revisit the question of why I teach and strengthened my appreciation of the process,” said Nicoll.

The NABT will host a special presentation at its national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to the certificate, Nicoll will be presented with a gift certificate from Carolina Biological Supply Company, a year’s complimentary membership in NABT, and a year’s membership in TABT.

As a Middle School teacher, Nicoll believes teaching needs to be holistic in its approach as students are discovering themselves at the same time as discovering the world around them. She aims to create joy and awe, foster questioning minds, and help students develop a “big picture” understanding of the world around them.

“The interconnectedness of all life, including human beings, is paramount to the conservation and protection of the planet," said Nicoll. “I want each student to look back on their time with me as a fun journey of exploration, one that they endeavor to continue, and a foundation to the life-long development of their scientific minds.”

Learn more about SMH’s distinguished faculty by visiting our Meet Our Faculty and Staff page.