Beam surprised as WY teacher of the year

Walter L. Sprague, Arts and Culture Reporter

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder, Zach’s father Brian Beam, Newcastle Science Teacher Zach Beam, Zach’s wife Crystal Beam, Weston County School District #1 Superintendent Brad LaCroix,  and Newcastle High School Principal Bryce Hoffman.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional information. 

A short ceremony in Crouch Auditorium on Thursday, Sept.  22, proved to hold a big surprise for one high school teacher, and the reason for the unannounced assembly at Crouch Auditorium became apparent after the Pledge of Allegiance, when Newcastle High School Principal Bryce Hoffman introduced Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder.

The secret was out quickly because Schroeder wasted little time before introducing the 2023 Wyoming Teacher of the Year: NHS physical science, physics and advanced chemistry teacher Zach Beam.

“Zach has the ability to bring the excitement of learning to his students with innovation and explanation,” Schroeder said. “What he is doing in the area of STEM education, and what he plans to do next fall, just goes to show that he is all in with letting his students grasp these far-reaching concepts in a way that is really, really fun and exciting.”

Beam will teach a STEM lab in Newcastle in the fall of 2023. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. According to, “STEM is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons. Students apply those disciplines in contexts that connect the classroom and the world around them.“ 

A loud cheer from students and staff rang out as Beam made his way to the stage, clearly surprised at the announcement.

Not surprised, though, were Beam’s wife, Crystal, and father, Brian, who had been let in on the secret before the event. Both proudly stood on stage with Beam as he received a plaque from Schroeder.

“I was honored to be named Weston No. 1 District Teacher of the Year,” Beam said, “But it is above and beyond to be named Wyoming Teacher of the Year.”

He cast a wry glance at his wife and father.

“I had no idea this was going to happen. Apparently, others did, though,” he said.

“He does so much for his students,” Crystal Beam said. “I’m so happy for him. I think he deserves it all the way.”

“I’m so proud of him,” Brian Beam said. “It’s so cool to see him succeed this way. We often talk about his classes. He has such a passion for
his students, and we often discuss ways to get the point across to them.”

Beam also said it was amazing to see the students’ reaction and excitement at the announcement, and he made a short but heartfelt speech of thanks and appreciation for the Wyoming Department of Education award.

“Mr. Beam is a fantastic teacher,” Hoffman said, “He is so deserving of the recognition and the honor.”

Superintendent Brad LaCroix added his praise. 

“He truly does care for all his students,” he said, adding that Beam can make science fun and exciting for the students, as well as educational.

“His love for the subject matter and his persistence to figure out a way to get the point of his lessons across are great,” Schroeder said, “Sometimes, he changes up the lesson two or three times for it to make sense to them (students).”

Schroeder spoke of Beam’s commitment to science, his desire to make it exciting for the students, plus his love for the students and staff he works with, as some of the reasons Beam obtained this honor.

“Every time students get exposed to the new information,” Zach Beam said in a Wyoming Department of Education release that announced his award. “It could be the ember that ignites their passion for education and their future endeavors.  … I want the public to know that as teachers, we are inspired by the ‘ah ha’ moments that our students have, and we want to foster that excitement when our students get it for the first time or make a connection to prior learning.”

According to the release, “the Wyoming Teacher of the Year acts as liaison among the teaching community, Wyoming Legislature, Wyoming Department of Education, districts and communities. In addition, the Teacher of the Year is an education ambassador to businesses, parents, service organizations, and media, as well as an education leader involved in teacher forums and education reform.“

Students, staff and visitors enjoyed cake in the commons with the honoree and his family after the ceremony.

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