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Park City High School educator receives Utah Science Teacher of the Year Award

Benjamin Ray, earth science, chemistry and geology teacher at Park City High School.
Park City School District
Benjamin Ray, earth science, chemistry and geology teacher at Park City High School.

A Park City High School teacher has been named the Utah Earth Science Teacher of the Year.

Each year, the Utah Geological Association gives out the Earth Science Teacher of the Year award to a K-12 educator. Park City High School earth science teacher Ben Ray received the honor this year, along with $1,500. Ray has been teaching in Park City for 16 years.

Matthew Affolter won the award in 2014 and now is on the Earth Science Teacher of the Year award committee. He said this year was unique.

“For the first time ever, a student of the teacher nominated the teacher for the award,” Affolter said.

The award is not set up for nominations; teachers apply for it on their own and must submit letters of recommendation, a lesson plan and more. However, Affolter said a former student Ray taught 15 years ago applied on his behalf.

Ray said he was “incredibly flattered and humbled” to receive the award. He also said it felt good to have a former student confirm he was doing something right as an educator.

Part of the reason Ray received the award is his teaching philosophy.

“For me, I want to reach kids where they're at so that what they experience is meaningful for them," Ray said. "In a world where technology is more encroaching, and you might argue that students are receiving more of a virtual education, through studying about the Earth, there is still a real connection that can be made.”

The UGA said Ray’s students enjoy how he uses popular media to educate them about the Earth, like comparing the movie “Dune” to Earth today, with conflicts over finite and limited resources.

K-12 earth science teachers can apply for the 2025 award later this year.