Fun science teacher wins devotion, award

Published: December 5, 2007 | 6877th good news item since 2003

Twelve-year-old middle school student Max K. Dowd enjoyed helping fourth-graders decorate cupcakes to look like the sun while a student last year in Beth C. Craven’s science class.

The youngsters got to stick on M&Ms as sunspots. The older students also made presentations on the sun to the younger children.

Max said Craven keeps her students amused with frequent jokes.

“There’s so many it’s hard to think of a good one. Every day you’d laugh in that class,” Max said during a recent interview at Michael E. Smith Middle School.

Craven also always had something for her students to do and explained concepts so well he now likes science, according to Max. That prompted him and his mother, Beth A. Dowd, to nominate Craven for a teaching award and resulted in her being named Teacher of the Month for October by Country Bank and WHYN Radio in Springfield. The honor earned her various prizes as well as a $250 Savings Bond.

Craven said she sparked Max’s interest in science by encouraging him to keep asking questions.

The teacher, who grew up in Holyoke but now lives in South Hadley, is a graduate of Providence College in Providence, R.I., where she was on a soccer scholarship. Craven, 40, went on to get a master’s degree in physical education and administration of athletics from Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. While there, she was assistant coach of the swim and soccer teams.

She worked in Chicopee as a special education and computer and science teacher for seven years before taking time off to care for her twin daughters Allyson K. and Brianna M., who are now 10. She and her husband, Michael E. Craven, who teaches in Belchertown, are also the parents of Stephanie A., 9, and Nolan L., 2.

When Craven returned to teaching in 2002 she worked with severely emotionally disturbed children in the latency program in the alternative school in Holyoke. Because it was more behavior management than teaching, she said she moved on after a year to take a job at the middle school. She is now in her fifth year at Michael E. Smith Middle School, where she teaches sixth-grade creative writing and science.

Craven is involved in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Living with a Star program, which celebrates Earth’s relationship with the sun. She said she loves teaching science because it is constantly changing and she can get into issues like global warming.

“I think every student learns differently and it’s a matter of finding what works best for them individually. Obviously, we struck a chord with Max,” Craven said.

Max’s mother, Beth A. Dowd, said, “I think she is a wonderful motivator for students who may not truly enjoy science.”

She pointed to how Craven has set out questions of increasing difficulty like the “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire” television show on her Web site.

“She has a great way with students,” Dowd said.

Published in Teachers
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