FARMINGTON — A Navajo Preparatory School teacher's dedication to engaging students in the science and technology field has earned recognition from an Arizona science group.

The Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Symposium presented physics and biology instructor Yolanda Flores with the "Outstanding Teacher Award" on March 22 to recognize her efforts to provide her students with new avenues and opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, field.

"I did not expect any award," Flores said. "I was expecting awards for my kids because I want them to succeed and gain confidence from all this hard work."

Ten high school students from Flores' after-school science club competed at the symposium in Tempe, Ariz., where they presented research projects to a panel of judges in hopes of earning scholarships.

Symposium co-director Laura Hobson said Flores is a dedicated and amazing teacher for getting her students to pursue avenues in STEM — learning to research and present projects based on their original ideas.

"The time she spends with her kids, she is constantly looking for new avenues and new opportunities for her kids to succeed," Hobson said. "She's outstanding. It's not often I would say that about a teacher."

Flores has made an effort to increase the science opportunities on campus, including restarting Navajo Prep's science fair last school year after a 15-year hiatus.

She hopes her students learn to develop critical thinking skills and gain confidence from their work.

"It's not only classroom teaching, it's the experience I want them to have," Flores said. "I want everybody to do a science fair project on their interests. From there, they will learn how to experience lab techniques and investigating the world around them."

The award comes with $500, which Flores plans on investing into classroom materials.

And Flores hopes to take her students on field trips to areas of interest in the region.

The students visited the Biosphere 2 science research facility in Oracle, Ariz., in March while returning from the symposium.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.