Allan Phipps, a 1996 biology graduate, was recently named the Broward County Teacher of the Year. Phipps teaches Advanced Placement Environmental Science and a course called Solar & Alternative Energies at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla.
“I was speechless when I found out, and for those who know me, that is really hard to do,” Phipps said. “I am very honored for the recognition.”
Phipps’ classes are truly unique. “In my Solar class, we focus on larger collaborative alternative energy projects. We have built two full-size solar race cars that compete on the national stage,” Phipps said. “Our Solar Knight I raced cross-country from Texas to New York. Solar Knight II raced at the Texas Motor Speedway NASCAR track and took 1st place in the nation last summer.” In addition to cars, Phipps and his students have built bamboo bicycles, solar hot dog cookers, solar distillers, a windmill, and “two artificial reefs each made of fifteen 500-lbs reef balls.” He has also created outreach programs for middle schools to help “recruit and educate younger students about environmental issues.”
“I truly enjoy inspiring others to step out of their comfort zone and do something extraordinary with their skills learned in class,” Phipps said. “I teach my students that the textbook should be merely your starting point, and a stepping stone to something bigger.”
Phipps credits his success and some of his innovative approaches to the biology department at Samford. “I learned a lot about the art of education from my time spent in Samford University's biology department,” Phipps said. “I studied my professor's delivery of their material and demeanor in the classroom just as much as I studied the curriculum they taught.” Phipps even admits to using some of Professor Larry Davenport’s jokes in his own classroom.
After graduating from Samford, Phipps attended Florida International University, where he received a M.S. in biology and studied ethnobotany and ethnomycology. He currently resides in Davie, Fla., with his wife Hien and son Aiden, who “put up will all of my crazy ideas,” he said.