Porter will travel this month to the NABT's conference in St. Louis to receive the award. The award highlights professors who use creative classroom techniques and teaching strategies.
Porter said that several years ago, he and former professor Matt Craig began incorporating statistical analysis into their labs. Over time, Porter said he has noticed students ask better questions, they better retain the concepts they learn, and have a better grasp of setting up laboratory experiments.
Many of his students are preparing for eventual study in medical school, and the statistical analysis gets them involved and interested in research earlier in their academic journey.
That involvement in research also shows students that there are more options for scientific study, including teaching. "I stress that the whole point of education is to gain knowledge and come back and share it with the next generation," Porter said.
Porter has taught science for 27 years. Porter also, through Texas Master Naturalists and AC's Natural History Museum, conducts presentations and leads hikes through Palo Duro Canyon and the Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge geared toward grade school students.
Kids, he said, naturally are inquisitive, and such interactions with nature bring classroom lessons to life and encourage them to continue exploring.
"You never know what lights a fire with kids," Porter said. "It could be a simple thing as pointing out certain plants in Palo Duro Canyon – and they'll continue on and get their Ph.D. because of that one event they had in life.
"It's extremely important to light a spark," he continued. "The kids that are in school today: That's our future. We need them to be involved in the sciences."