Kristina Tons, 2021 Distinguished Teacher Award winner

Kristina Tons headshot

“I am a fifth-grade girl, but my teacher has empowered me to believe I ‘can do’ science, that I am good at it, and that I might just do something important with science in my future.”

Those are the words of Mensan Molly Maguire, words that would be rewarding for any teacher to hear but carry extra meaning for Kristina Tons, this year’s Distinguished Teacher Award winner.

Tons, an educator for two decades, teaches science to fourth- and fifth-grade students at St. Matthew School in Franklin, Tenn. In the essay nominating her teacher, Molly said she dreaded science but noted how that changed in fourth grade because of Tons. “You can tell every day that this teacher really does love science and loves teaching fourth and fifth graders to love science too,” Molly wrote.

“Young children love to ask questions, and they are naturally curious about the world,” Tons said. “I try to engage my students with hands-on activities so they can explore and experience science firsthand. Not all children will become inventors or engineers someday, but I believe that all children need to be able to think scientifically, work with others, problem-solve, know it is OK to make mistakes, and never give up!”

Tons “turns her passion for teaching science into our passion for learning science,” Molly said. “She really pays attention to everyone’s learning style and accommodates what all of her students need to learn properly.”

“It is an absolute honor to receive this award and know I have touched the life of one of my students,” Tons said. “It is truly a gift when I see science come to life for my students. It has always been my goal as a teacher to inspire my students by creating fun and meaningful lessons. I hope to instill a lifelong love of learning for the students in my classroom.”

The Mensa Foundation’s Distinguished Teacher Award recognizes a teacher, professor, or instructor at any educational level who has had an especially positive influence on the education or life of a Mensa member.