William “Bill” Siders, a Roswell Museum and Art Center (RMAC) volunteer, was recently recognized as ‘Volunteer of the Year’ by the state of New Mexico Association of Museums (NMAM).
The award honors volunteers, serving as role models, who are committed to civic engagement in museums and cultural institutions. The NMAM award was established in 2012 and modeled after the national award, created in 2010 by the American Association for Museums. Members of NMAM can nominate volunteers for the award and then a board votes on the nominations. Siders said he accepted the award last month at a resort in Taos with 50 to 75 people from museums around the state in attendance.
Siders, 76, has been a docent, event volunteer, and board of trustees member and vice chair at the RMAC. Siders said he began volunteering after he retired from his position as director of information services at the New Mexico Military Institute in 2007. Siders and his wife, who was also his high school sweetheart, moved to Roswell in 1989 to find somewhere warm and with sunshine. Siders said he and his wife have three children and grandchildren around the country, who they visit by means of an RV.
Siders said he first started volunteering at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge for a number of years. Since he loves teaching and working with kids, Siders said he looked into the docent program at the museum and “absolutely loves it.” Later in the interview, Siders said it was “just wonderful” to be recognized.
“I said at the meeting — it really is strange to have someone give you an award for doing something you love to do,” Siders chuckled.
Amanda Nicholson, RMAC curator of education, nominated Siders in the fall of this year. Nicholson said she started in her position two-and-a-half-years ago and met Siders around the same time.
“Bill Siders taught me not only about scientific concepts and the museum’s collections — but also invaluable experience about learning from others, knowing when to lead and when to listen — and never taking a learning opportunity for granted,” Nicholson said.
On the nomination application, Nicholson wrote that Siders became “resident expert” regarding the Robert H. Goddard Collection of rocketry equipment and replica workshop through self-motivated study. Nicholson said Siders has volunteered at the RMAC’s STEAM Night (Family Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics) and has previously volunteered as interim Robert H. Goddard Planetarium coordinator. Nicholson said Siders “has given countless tours to visitors (from) ages Pre-Kindergarten to adults” and assisted in the first year of the Pre-K planetarium program called “Space Look and Storybook.” Nicholson also said Siders has been featured on the Smithsonian Institution’s webcast series ‘STEM in 30.’
Siders said the Robert H. Goddard Planetarium and exhibit have a “fantastic” impact on the community. In his own life, Siders said many local professionals in science-related fields, such as his doctors or his pet’s veterinarian, share how they were inspired to go into a science field because of the planetarium.
“Every time I do a tour there’s one kid out there that you can see, you can see it in their eyes and their mouth comes open a little bit, and their eyes are bright,” Siders said. “They have questions, they come up after and ask questions … that’s another veterinarian or doctor. You need to get these kids interested in science early and get them working with it.”
Siders said he was a “farm kid” from southern Ohio and his childhood on the farm was formative for his love of science and math. From moving hundreds of pounds of corn with a drag bed or feeding the hogs, Siders said his questions about science started in these moments — and in his high school physics class he learned the drag bed that was essentially a winch and the husk of the corn illustrated the ballistic principle that Robert H. Goddard used in his rocketry.
“Since I was a kid, you show up and you try to do things for the community,” Siders said. “That was part of growing up in a farming community where you knew everybody.”
Siders said he was the first person in his family to graduate high school and has a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in mathematics and worked towards a doctoral degree in educational foundations from Ohio State University. Siders has taught math and computer science in different schools from high school to the college level. He said learning to tailor his subjects to various intellectual levels was a challenge that affected the way he taught, and he brings his enthusiasm and educational background to his volunteering at the RMAC.
For more information on volunteering at the RMAC, the application can be found at under departments at roswell-nm.gov or interested parties can call 575-624-6744 ext. 10 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.