Monday, May. 7, 2007
Five Staten Island teachers were honored yesterday for their dedication and passion for the profession during the second annual Excellence In Education Awards ceremony at Staten Island Academy, Todt Hill.
“You are a special breed of heroes,” said James Dawson, keynote speaker and head of school at the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan. “You provide the tools to build the future.”
Dawson, who grew up in Great Kills, compared the importance of a good teacher in a student’s life to the importance of a lighthouse for a boat.
“You are the lighthouse at the edge of the sea of the future,” said Dawson.
Honoree Barbara Prideaux, a 26-year veteran special education teacher at Curtis High School, was so taken aback by the award, she initially mistook the notification by Staten Island Academy as a salespitch.
“I thought he was a salesman,” said Ms. Prideaux, of the representative from Staten Island Academy who left her a message at home asking her to call him back. “I thought he wanted to me to send my kids to summer camp or something. He had to track me down at my school.”
It was a similar shock for George Padula, a biology and environmental science teacher at Tottenville High School.
“There are so many teachers I know who are so good at what they do every day, that I thought it was just nice that they nominated me,” said Padula, who started teaching seven years ago, after his wife suggested he get into the profession.
It’s been a “whirlwind” of a time for PS 25 special education teacher Dorothy Guerriero, since she was named one of the honorees.
“I’m very honored,” said Ms. Guerriero, who grew up on the Island. “In my lifetime I have received many accolades for athletics, but this is the one I’m the most proud of.”
Constance De Francesco, a teacher at the Richard H. Hungerford School, said it was nice to recognized for doing something she loves, adding that she has to thank the numerous paraprofessionals who have worked in her classrooms over the years.
“A good paraprofessional is priceless,” said Ms. De Francesco.
The coordinator of Susan E. Wagner High School’s Institute for International Leadership, George S. Anthony, couldn’t stop smiling after receiving his award yesterday.
“Teachers are the bows and the students are the arrows,” said Anthony. “We shoot them on a path.”
Each of the five honorees received a $1,500 honorarium, provided by corporate sponsors the Staten Island Advance, Island Ford, SI Bank & Trust, Victory State Bank and the Staten Island Heart Imaging.
Quoting Aristotle, Diane Hulse, head of school at Staten Island Academy, said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
“If Aristotle were among us today, he would be happy to know in Staten Island excellence in education is not an act, but a habit,” she said.
Honorable mentions were awarded to Angela Gianino of PS 5, Jack Minogue, of the Staten Island Employment Education Consortium, and Paul Presti, of New Dorp High School.
Friday, May. 4, 2007
American author and historian Henry Adams (1838-1918) once said, “A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops.” Like many people, Adams, the grandson of the sixth U.S. president, John Quincy Adams, thought of teaching as one of the most important jobs a person can seek.
Each May, we have an opportunity to say “thank you” to teachers on National Teacher Appreciation Day, which always falls on Tuesday in the first full week of May. Some parent organizations around the country show their appreciation by planning celebrations for each day of Teacher Appreciation Week, which is May 6-12, this year.
You might plan (with help from a few parents) a nice luncheon for your school’s staff. Or plan to serve teachers a special breakfast each morning, as a parent group in Texas did.
Small tokens of appreciation can inspire teachers as well as thank them. The students and parents in a West Virginia grade school gave their teachers thoughtful gifts each day, like a candy-filled plastic apple and a soup bowl with a package of soup. Or offer to help your teacher with the end-of-the-year cleaning of the supply closet.
If you feel your teacher is truly outstanding, nominate him or her for a national teaching award. You can find a list of them at http://disney.go.com/disneyhand/learning/teacherawards/ on the Web.
While most educators claim that teaching is its own reward, the following suggestions were made by teachers and parents to Education World, a Web-based resource for teachers. They include: visits from former students, letters or cards from former students or their parents, a class-made scrapbook with memories of the past year, flowers and/or a cake to celebrate with students and school supplies for next school year.
This clever greeting card would be appreciated by any teacher. I found it at http://familyfun.go.com (type “watering can greeting card” in the search box). It holds a brightly colored packet of seeds as a bonus. This is a simple craft, easily made by younger children with help from an adult.
Supplies you will need:
• 1 8 ½-by-11-inch sheet of silver card stock.
• Double-sided tape.
• Seed packet.
• Black marking pen.
Print out the watering can template on a sheet of silver (or gray) card stock.
Cut the can out and use a black marker to accentuate the details on the can.
Make a horizontal slit across the front of the can.
Insert a seed packet and attach it to the card in back with double-sided tape.
Write a message to your teacher on the can.
If you can read this, the saying goes, thank a teacher.
Si también puede leer esto, agradézcale a la profesora Caridad Alonso. (If you can also read this, thank a teacher like Caridad Alonso.)
Alonso, AS ’91, CHEP ’96M, is the 2007 Delaware Teacher of the Year and the first teacher in a dual-language program to be named the state’s top educator in the 43-year history of the award program. Alonso is a reading specialist at William C. Lewis Elementary School in Wilmington, which is the state’s only dual-language public school.
“I feel so honored to receive this award, but it really isn’t about me,” Alonso says from her cozy, colorful classroom. “I feel I was given this opportunity so that I can tell people about dual-language programs and what a benefit they are for the students and the community.”
Lewis Elementary educates students from kindergarten through fifth grade, with those in the dual language program being taught in English half of each school day and in Spanish the other half. Although the program is designed to teach children from either language background, most of the students currently enrolled are native Spanish speakers.
Alonso began working at Lewis in 1998, teaching Spanish as a second language to English-speaking children, but she now works as a reading specialist, offering intensive literacy instruction to children in their native Spanish. She is quick to point out that English literacy is the goal but that teaching phonics and other word-decoding skills in Spanish is an important first step.
“Research shows that you need to have a strong literacy base in your first language so you can transfer those skills to a second language,” she says. “We have children in our school with widely different levels of English proficiency and Spanish proficiency. My focus is to teach in Spanish to those students whose literacy skills are low.
“It’s a real challenge, but there are strategies you can use that are effective. I teach letter sounds and syllables in a very specific and sequential way-I use Spanish to front-load the skills they need, so they can transfer those skills to English.”
Alonso’s students come to her classroom, where bookshelves and posters cover the walls, in groups of a half-dozen throughout the school day and sit at a horseshoe-shaped table facing their teacher.
While Alonso is preparing her students to become literate in English, she also is passionate about the value of being bilingual and bicultural. When she was born in the United States, her parents were recent immigrants who had fled Cuba, and she says she knew almost no English until she started school. Her mother was advised to help the children assimilate by speaking only English at home.
“My mother was an educator, and thank goodness she had a different
vision for us,” Alonso says. “She knew we’d learn English by living here, and she wanted us to also maintain our Spanish. I feel enormously fortunate to have come from
a bicultural home.”
In planning her career, Alonso says she initially resisted her mother’s suggestions to try teaching and instead studied anthropology and Spanish literature at UD. “I’m fascinated by different cultures and languages,” she says. “I can’t get enough of it.”
After graduation, she tried working as a substitute teacher while considering graduate school and found-much to her surprise, she recalls-that she loved it. She says she also noticed a high proportion of Spanish-speaking children in special education classes and suspected that some of them had difficulty with the English language rather than actual learning disabilities. She returned to UD to study elementary and special education and earned a master’s degree in instruction.
When Alonso learned that she had won Teacher of the Year honors, first for the Red Clay Consolidated School District and then for the state, she says the rush of pride she felt was for her colleagues in the dual-language program and for her students. Children with little knowledge of English often come to her classroom feeling embarrassed or unintelligent, she says.
“I tell them: Do you know how smart you are to become bilingual and how important that will be in your future?” she says. “These children are making connections between cultures. How can that not be an asset for them and for all of us?”
Friday, Apr. 27, 2007
Wendy Gallegos stands before her class and writes “concer” on the board.
One of her students raises her hand.
“Ms. Gallegos, you should have written ‘concocer’ instead,” she said, referring to the Spanish verb for “to know.”
Gallegos looks at the board, smiles and quickly erases her mistake.
“You see, I have taught you so well, you pick up on my mistakes,” she said with a laugh.
To Gallegos, the scene in her classroom is typical of the children she teaches. They are the bright students of Immokalee Middle School.
To her students, Gallegos is the teacher who they think is most deserving of one of Collier County’s Golden Apple Awards.
Gallegos teaches high school Spanish 1 and 2 to Immokalee Middle School students. But she is quick to dismiss any assumptions one might make about her students.
“The assumption, because the majority of my students are Hispanic, is that they speak Spanish. I have a lot of second-, third- and fourth-generation students who don’t know any Spanish at all,” she said. “And for those who do, sometimes it is harder to unteach any bad language habits.”
It is not easy to be in Gallegos’ class. Students must be in the top of their class and have to pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). They must sign a contract, saying they will be committed to the program for three years, taking Spanish 1 over their sixth- and seventh-grade years, and Spanish 2 in eighth grade. They also must earn a B or higher in the class.
“I become part of their lives for three years. I become part of their families. If they forget their homework, by the end of that period, that child will call home,” she said.
Gallegos said she is willing to go out of her comfort zone to help her children succeed.
“I pay my mortgage in Naples, I sleep in Naples, but this is my home,” she said. “Why shouldn’t I do that?”
Maria Plata, 14, said after a couple of years, Gallegos’ class becomes like home.
“You learn a lot, but there is also some pressure to do well,” she said.
Gallegos’ Spanish class is taught mostly in English in sixth grade. By the time the students are eighth-graders, they are speaking fewer words of English and more of Spanish during the 50-minute classes.
“My goal is to get my kids to say something in Spanish every day,” she said. “I want them to be able to talk to me. That’s why I help them, I praise them, I recognize them when they do good work. And we have fun. The day I stop having fun is the day I am going to consider a different job.”
If a student needs help, Gallegos offers the student a “lifesaver,” which is help from a classmate. The lifesaver gets a piece of candy as a reward.
She also offers a 50-cent question of the day for a student in her class. One of her students asks if the question could be the $1 of the day.
“No, it can’t be a dollar,” she said with a laugh. “Gas prices are up!”
Sixth-grader Cheyenne Green, 12, said Gallegos’ class is anything but boring.
“She’s not like regular teachers,” she said. “She elaborates a lot. She makes sure we learn something. My sister had her, so I was really excited for her to be my teacher, too.”
Gallegos also doesn’t let her students get away with much. She reminds them that, no matter what their circumstances are, there is someone out there who has it worse. Her eighth-grade class sponsors a Colombian girl through the World Vision Program, which is a humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to tackle issues of poverty and injustice.
The students do not get extra credit for their participation in World Vision, nor do they have to participate. Gallegos has the students take home permission slips explaining the financial commitment — $2.50 a month for students — and the parents agree.
“I want to impact my kids in a positive way,” Gallegos said. “I don’t teach a subject. I teach kids. This is what I was born to do.”
Gallegos also knows where the kids are coming from. She grew up in the projects in the Bronx, N.Y. She is the first person in her family to graduate from college, to own her own home, to get her master’s degree. Her husband, Israel, grew up in Immokalee and she has heard about his experiences, leaving school early to go to the fields and pick.
“There was one way out and that was through education. I tell them that no one can take their education away from them. It’s how you break the cycle of poverty,” she said. “I have the authority to tell them that because I have been there.”
Gallegos, 35, met Israel, a physical education teacher at Immokalee High School, while working for the district. The couple have four children: Juan, Lissette, Tony and Ariana. Gallegos proudly says that her children attend Immokalee schools by choice.
“It is in the best interest of my family,” she said.
Gallegos said she is glad that her Golden Apple Award, which is the first for Immokalee Middle School, is bringing attention to Immokalee.
“People need to know good things happen in Immokalee and that good things happen at Immokalee Middle School,” she said. “They need to see we have awesome kids.”
Tuesday, Apr. 24, 2007
Students and staff of Pocomoke Middle School are this week celebrating the success of one of their own as the county’s 2007 Teacher of the Year.
Tamara Krauch, who has been teaching visual arts at the school for the past six years, was honored as the county’s top educator Friday at a packed Teacher of the Year banquet at the Clarion Resort hotel in Ocean City.
As a visibly emotional Krauch took in what her predecessor and Maryland Teacher of Year Michelle Hammond promised would be a life-changing honor announced by board of education president Garry Mumford, family, friends and guests at the banquet cheered.
Krauch is an enthusiastic and energetic instructor and mentor, providing her students with more than just an opportunity to draw pictures or sculpt a clay pot.
She uses the hands-on nature of producing artwork to serve up an experience that ties the creative process to math, history, society and culture. More importantly, her approach helps foster in students a positive attitude toward school and education.
“Every child is like an uncut diamond and our job is to make it shine,” Krauch told the gathering.
Krauch is the visible symbol of the dedication and commitment to education of not only the 14 teachers who were this year’s candidates for the Teacher of the Year award, but all educators in the county.
The other teacher of the year candidates for this year were: Karen Benson of Stephen Decatur High, Stephen Boyd of Snow Hill High, Lisa Brady of Ocean City Elementary, Virginia Bullis of Snow Hill Elementary, Stephanie Caceres of Snow Hill Middle, Brenda Carney of Buckingham Elementary, Janet Corbin of Pocomoke Elementary, Jennette Mears of Showell Elementary, Christopher Miles of Pocomoke High, Victoria Radford of Cedar Chapel Special, Doug Romano of Stephen Decatur Middle, Lori Romano of Berlin Intermediate and Rachel Watson of Worcester Career and Technology Center.
“We have a terrific, fantastic, wonderful school system because of the people in this room,” Superintendent Jon Andes said at Friday’s celebration.
“These educators are absolutely fabulous and they teach each and every day to improve the lives of our students,” he said.
We agree and salute Krauch and all the teachers in Worcester County.
Our educators are often the unsung heroes in a child’s life, ambitiously, yet quietly, making a difference.
Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2007
Waterford High School’s motto is “worst to first,” and that’s just what students have done since the campus opened six years ago.
“Waterford High School was at the bottom of the barrel,” The Bee reported in 2003 after the state released its Academic Performance Index rankings.
Waterford received a pair of “1” rankings on a scale of 1 to 10: well below average in test scores, and well below average compared with schools whose students had similar social and economic backgrounds.
“It was all over the front page, and we probably deserved it,” said Will Frey, who has taught science at Waterford since the school opened in 2001. “We decided not to make excuses and figure out what we can do.”
The low scores inspired the faculty to look inward rather than point to thesundry reasons why students might not do as well as those from more affluent areas with two-parent families.
“When you start making excuses, you just sound lame,” Principal Don Davis said.
Ultimately, Waterford’s pair of 1s propelled the school forward. Last week, the school won a state Title I Academic Achievement Award. And school officials expect to take home a California Distinguished School award this month.
Both awards take into account that the school rose to a 10 and an 8 in this year’s API scores from the state Department of Education.
“It’s very rare for a school to move up in ranks that much,” said Pat McCabe, director of the Policy and Evaluation Division for the California Department of Education. “What’s unique about that is, in order to move, you not only have to leap over everyone ahead of you, but do it at a greater rate than the rest of the state.”
Teachers aren’t complacent
The nerve it took teachers to accept the blame for low scores still is evident as they experiment with teaching aids and philosophies rather than settle into the perception they have achieved enough.
This year, an English teacher has divided classes by gender, to see if students perform differently without the anxiety and distraction the opposite sex might bring to the classroom. So far, boys and girls are scoring about equally on tests, and the classes separated by gender are outperforming mixed classes, Davis said.
Some experiments have been implemented schoolwide. Students use hand-held whiteboards to provide direct feedback to teachers in the classroom. The teacher asks a question and students write the answer on the boards.
Whiteboards help teachers spot those lagging behind without embarrassing them by drilling them during class. If at least 80 percent of the class gives the correct answer, the teacher moves on. Teachers identify those students who don’t understand and can work with them separately. And students who have trouble with a subject can take an elective class that helps them keep up.
If less than 80 percent of the class understands a lesson, the instructor teaches it again. The technique has helped students such as senior Krista Montgomery, 18, who wrestled with algebra.
“I knew I was struggling, but I’m not the type to go up and ask for help,” she said. “This way, teachers know if I’m struggling.”
To keep students alert, teachers also randomly call on students by pulling names written on Popsicle sticks.
“It keeps us more awake in class knowing we’d have to answer questions,” said senior Leti Dominguez, 17.
Middle schools prepare students well
Principal Davis also attributes success to getting students from good middle schools such as Hickman, which is a Distinguished School and just earned two 10s in state rankings for the second year in a row. Hickman has adopted many of Waterford High’s instruction techniques, said Vicki Porter, the charter school’s vice principal.
“Kids who don’t know (answers) try to be invisible, but you cannot be invisible here,” Porter said.
When Leti started attending Waterford four years ago, she said, she doubted the school would be noticed for anything but poor performance.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be the best, but it was a quick turn,” she said. “I’m excited to see how much we’ve grown since then, and know I was part of it.”
Monday, Apr. 16, 2007
Room 315 of Senior High looks as much like an art studio as a classroom. The white dry-erase boards have detailed drawings of sea life and humans, and the directions penned on the board look as if they were done by an expert illustrator.
The designs are the work of teacher Dan Bartsch, who teaches biology and anatomy.
He designs the text and illustrations for worksheets and tests and, according to Senior High Principal Dennis Holmes, has found innovative ways to catch students’ attention and keep them engaged until the minute they leave the room.
His class was interrupted Tuesday when he was surprised with a Golden Apple Award for outstanding teaching. He was nominated for the award by several students and a fellow teacher.
“I have the best job in the world, so it’s kind of hard to be rewarded for that,” Bartsch told his class.
His sentiments were probably shared by the four other Golden Apple winners and the five Billings Education Association honorees who were also surprised Tuesday.
Teacher Leslie Jimmerson of Eagle Cliffs Elementary; Aaron Roberts, a music teacher at Will James Middle School; Maureen Klaboe, a counselor at Broadwater Elementary; and Ryan Truscott, a teacher at Poly Drive Elementary, were also chosen.
The Golden Apple honorees were selected from more than 100 nomination letters from parents, students, fellow educators and community members. The annual awards give the public a chance to recognize teachers.
“It’s the extra things. I think if you look at any teacher they’ve all done something great, and this recognizes teachers for going above and beyond,” said Mary Keeley, a member of the Golden Apple Committee that chose this year’s award recipients.
The BEA award winners were nominated by their peers and chosen by a committee of teachers.
This year’s BEA Teacher of the Year is Eileen Sheehy, a West High American government teacher. She’s National Board Certified, serves on the National Council for Social Studies board of directors, judges the U.S. Institute of Peace Essay Contest and is a recipient of a Madison Fellowship. But all those accomplishments aren’t the reasons her husband thinks she was honored as the teacher of the year. He said her hard work evenings and weekends, her love of children, enthusiasm for the classroom and excitement for the subject are what deserve recognition.
Sheehy said she loves teaching high school seniors and training them in citizenship, which she believes is one of the most important jobs they’ll have throughout their lives.
“It’s like they’re the end result of all those teachers that have worked with these kids,” Sheehy said. “They embody the hopes of our country, and I’m around them when all those hopes come to a head. It’s exciting.”
Other BEA award recipients included Skyview High teacher Mike Walz, for his dedication to the community. Walz sponsors the Skyview Honor Guard and is a Boy Scouts leader. He volunteers for Little League baseball and Little Guy football as well as YMCA sports programs.
Liz Fulton, a parent volunteer at Poly Drive, was recognized for her involvement in the school, where she started a book club for every grade level and recruited parent volunteers to lead discussions during lunch.
Lewis and Clark Middle School secretary Julie Reichert was honored for her strong work ethic and dedication to the school.
Jay Lemelin, the principal at Rose Park Elementary, received the Exemplary Administrator award for his leadership and inspiration of staff and relationships with the children at the school.
This week, Alisa Smits, life science teacher at Fremont Middle School, will help 108 seventh-graders dissect sheep eyes into various parts — cornea, lens, retina and all.
Ever the thrifty teacher, Smits uses ovine orbs.
“They’re cheaper than cow eyes,” she said. “You do what you can.”
Evidently, Smits can do a lot.
Now in her third year at FMS, she recently received the Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Award for New Teachers.
Simmons, a 1925 University of Rhode Island graduate, worked for many years as a science teacher. He and his wife, Antoinette Simmons, also a Rhode Island graduate, set up a planned-giving endowment in the 1970s. From that endowment, several scholarships are now drawn, including the national teaching award won by Smits.
The $1,000 prize paid her expenses to the National Conference on Science Education, held Saturday-Monday in St. Louis.
“It was great,” said Smits. “The exhibits, the hands-on technology. I brought home lots of ideas to incorporate in the classroom.”
And outside the classroom, too, it seems.
Monday afternoon found Smits and her students examining square-meter areas outside the FMS building. Each student has been assigned a space, Smits said, to observe existing flora now and predict what will happen later.
“Some of these kids don’t really know how things grow,” she said, noting students had suggested, upon examination, that the brown and dried weeds would turn green again.
Smits hopes to use the enthusiasm and skill that earned her the Simmons award to broaden the scope of her students’ scientific knowledge.
“I’ve always loved school,” she said. “I have a passion for learning. If you go to these conventions, if you learn one big thing for your classroom, it’s a huge success.”
Smits, 25, grew up in Omaha, graduated from Ashland-Greenwood High School and majored in natural sciences at Wayne State College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education. She is now pursing a master’s degree in education in curriculum and instruction at Wayne State.
Smits said the human body is her favorite area of scientific study. The thought of becoming a doctor crossed her mind, but she decided against the field after considering the years of schooling required.
Then she chose a career that may lead to years of schooling, anyway.
Only this time, she’s the teacher.
“I like where I am now,” Smits said. “The atmosphere here is great. I student-taught here, so it was an easy transition.”
She also appreciates the nearby Johnson Lake, which provides a natural classroom for learning, something she says some districts cannot provide their students.
“They struggle as far as educational opportunities,” Smits said.
Lake or no lake, Smits has unique ways of teaching her life science classes.
Next year, she will help the seventh-graders plant Wisconsin Fast Seeds, radish-like plants which mature in 35 days, long enough to show students a complete cycle of plant life.
As a life science teacher, Smits said she doesn’t get to use what she calls the “toys and explosions” employed by chemistry and physics instructors.
But she does have a plan to make the seed project especially interesting.
The Fast Seeds kits come with frozen bees which the students can use to pollinate the flowers.
“That’s a definite hook for the kids,” Smits said. “To put a bee on a stick and pollinate.”
Thursday, Apr. 12, 2007
Lawrence Cory peers intently into a burbling stream under a canopy of oaks, then jumps to the other side, looking for salamanders.
Seeing none, he nimbly leaps back to the other side and gazes into the water. Not bad for a man pushing 90.
Colleagues say not much has changed for the 89-year-old St. Mary’s College biology professor who continues to teach 55 years after he arrived on campus and who still leads students on field trips into the hills.
“Most of the students don’t have any idea how old he is,” said Margaret Field, chairwoman of St. Mary’s biology department. “He’s pretty hard to keep up with.”
Today, the college will honor Cory as its professor of the year.
Cory is miles away from the tweed-suited professors of his college days. His salamander forays demand denim jeans, shirt pockets jammed with pens and pencils, a windbreaker and sneakers that once were white.
“Our washing machine at home gets filled every few days with four pairs of muddy pants,” Cory said as he drove his beat-up Honda sedan to a newt-breeding site near St. Mary’s campus. A fossil-laden rock he wanted to show his students rested amid a litter of dirt and leaves.
It would be an understatement to say Cory knows St. Mary’s College.
When he was 10, Cory and his father attended the 1927 groundbreaking of St. Mary’s Moraga campus. The elder Cory was a die-hard football fan who had been impressed by the college’s 1926 victory over the University of California, Berkeley, which led to the family’s train trip from Oakland to Moraga the following year.
Cory attended the college less than a decade later and joined the Christian Brothers, the Catholic order that runs St. Mary’s. For nearly 40 years, Cory would be known as Brother Lawrence and wear the order’s black frock.
He received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from UC Berkeley in 1942.
After a stint as a football coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco, he completed his graduate studies in biology at the University of Notre Dame before returning to teach evolutionary biology at St. Mary’s. He hasn’t left since, although he did leave the Christian Brothers in 1972.
In the early 1970s, after finding traces of the pesticide DDT as high as 12,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada, Cory published evidence of DDT’s effects on fly DNA in the influential journal Nature. Cory’s studies led to testimony before federal lawmakers, which in turn led to a ban on the pesticide.
“I had this impression that all these politicians sitting up there reminded me of bullfrogs,” said Cory, ever the amphibian expert. “All they knew was how to get elected.”
Cory said chemicals are more of an environmental risk than ever.
“There are all kinds of chemicals being synthesized all the time that never existed before,” he said, standing in rubber hip waders next to a Moraga pond. “With most of these chemicals, we don’t know what the effects will be on organisms, but it probably won’t be good.”
Cory is nearly a quarter of a century past the age when most people retire, but he doesn’t plan to leave the college. Studies tell him that the aging human brain functions better when it’s challenged, so he plans to continue splitting time between the classroom and the field.
“I like teaching, I like the students,” he said. “I want to drop dead in the middle of teaching.”
Former students remember him fondly. Concord resident Richard Smith said Cory was the best teacher he ever had.
“He kind of cracked the whip, but when you got out of his class you really knew what the class was about,” the retired physician said. He took his first Cory class in 1959. “When I got to medical school, it was easier than being in his class.”
This semester, Cory is teaching one class — biology for nonbiology majors. Although he has relished his influence on students with medical school plans, he has warmed to his current role.
“I’m getting more interested in teaching nonscience majors,” he said. “People are more and more being called upon to vote on scientific issues, and the population in general doesn’t understand science.”
The lighter-than-usual schedule has allowed him to delve into intriguing genetic differences he has found among local newts, which are species of salamanders. He returns nearly daily to several streams and ponds to check on the newt population, wading among the reeds to find the jellylike egg sacs left by the amphibians, which resemble rubber lizards. Occasionally, he will snip a tiny piece of newt tail for DNA testing.
His renewed research focus, Cory said, has limited another hobby: making violins. A hand injury forced him to give up his longtime love of playing them, but he is trying to craft the instruments out of madrone wood.
Despite Cory’s range of interests — he also has made beer and helped prompt the college to take up its distinctive Great Books Program — he is revered primarily as a scientist
Cory was “the court of last resort” in the early 1970s, the person on campus who could answer any biology question, said St. Mary’s alumnus Steve Edwards, who directs the Tilden Regional Park botanical garden.
“We looked at him almost like he was another Gregor Mendel,” Edwards said, comparing Cory with the father of modern genetics. “It was a wondrous thing to have this person walking around in a Catholic order’s habit and know he was a world-class geneticist.”
Field marvels at Cory’s probing intellect and willingness to adapt.
“When you look at someone who doesn’t get stuck in their method of research, then you know you have a scholar,” she said. “He has a lot to teach all of us.”
Old age and decades of accomplishments aside, Cory has no intention of spending more time in his cramped Brousseau Hall office than necessary. His most immediate concerns are the newts, most of which have not returned to local waterways this breeding season as in past years.
Standing next to the Moraga stream, he watched as a male salamander climbed a steep bank, waiting for the clumsy amphibian to tumble back into the water. Normally, he said, the animals would climb into the hills much later in the spring.
“I don’t know where he thinks he’s going,” Cory said. “Maybe he says, ‘There are no girls, so I’m going back to the sticks.'”
Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2007
Janet Glancy knows when her students need a change of scenery.
About an hour into first period, she tells the class they will be going outside to work.
“I like to bring them outside a couple of times a week,” she said. “They may be quiet in class, but when we come out here, they get very involved in the literature.”
Once outside, the students break off into groups of four and begin talking to each other about Albert Camus’ “The Stranger.” Tough reading, but necessary as she prepares her students for the Advanced Placement (AP) literature and composition exam.
Glancy knows group work is critical to her students’ understanding.
“It is an effective teaching tool,” she said. “They not only get to share what they learn, but they also hear things that they might not have thought of.”
In her 38 years of teaching, including the last 30 at Naples High School, Glancy had to learn a thing or two about adapting her classes.
But it is her ability to do so that has helped her garner the county’s top teaching prize: The Golden Apple Award.
Glancy began her teaching career at Naples High School as a science teacher, educating children on everything from botany and marine science to biology and space science.
Suddenly, she found herself without a science teaching position.
“I was covering for someone who is on leave,” she said. “I realized I was one course short of a certification in English. I have always loved literature, so I got my certification.”
Glancy has spent the last 19 years teaching AP literature and composition. But whether she is teaching AP or a regular course, Glancy said it is important to always engage students.
“I love the whole process of learning. It is a quest I am on for life. I learn continuously through my students and for my students,” she said. “It is amazing to watch the moments of recognition in their faces. I love creating independent thinkers.”
Still, it is not an easy job. Glancy has to make sure her AP students know about literature from the 1500s to poems and novels that were written a few years ago.
“They really have to be able to look at all different styles and philosophical perspectives,” she said. “On the AP exam, they might have to compare an Elizabethan poem versus a free verse poem that was written a couple of years ago.”
Glancy tackles different perspectives, too. The Thursday before spring break, her students were discussing existentialism in literature.
“I tell them that some people view the world this way. The choices of how they view the world are theirs to make,” she said.
Glancy helped start the district’s Advanced Placement Laureate Program, which allows students to earn a Laureate Diploma if they complete six or more AP courses and present a major paper to a school/community panel, among other things. She started the program in 1994.
“We started at Naples High School with three kids. It has grown to six high schools, and we have 38 students this year at Naples participating,” she said proudly. “It’s just grown exponentially in the last few years.”
Senior Lune Dormond said she appreciates Glancy’s efforts with the Laureate program.
“She will stay here until 8 o’clock at night working with us,” she said. “She is dedicated. I definitely made her stay late a couple of nights.”
Glancy smiled at the compliment, but insists she is only doing what any teacher would do.
“I love them and they know it,” she said.
Senior Kevin Tipton echoed Lune’s statements when Glancy received her award.
“She works nights, weekends,” he said. “Without her, my senior year would not be the same.”
Glancy, who has previously been recognized as Teacher of the Year, said her Golden Apple Award means that she is representing so many wonderful teachers in Collier County.
“Educators are not recognized enough for the wonderful things that they do,” she said. “I am honored to represent them.”
She is married to Donald. The couple have six children and four grandchildren.
Lisa Braren stood in front of about 10 children dressed in Hawaiian shirts, top hats and canes.
“My name is Lisa Braren and I am the music teacher here. These are my morning musicians and they are going to sing to you,” she told a group of Tommie Barfield Elementary School volunteers. “Boy, do I have the best job in the world.”
Braren’s job got a little better Thursday when she and three other teachers were named Teachers of the Year for Collier County.
Braren was named Collier County Elementary School Teacher of the Year.
“This does not happen very often, but I am speechless,” Braren said with a laugh. “This is such an honor. I am honored to teach at this school. You have made my bouquet complete.”
Also honored Thursday were North Naples Middle School science teacher Mary Jane Nardulli-Clark, who was named Collier County Middle School Teacher of the Year; Gulf Coast High School math teacher Susan Hemrick, who was named Collier County High School Teacher of the Year; and Debbie Graham, a fifth-grade teacher at Avalon Elementary School who was named the Macy’s Teacher of the Year.
The teachers were nominated and then chosen by a panel of previous Teacher of the Year winners. Each year Collier County recognizes the elementary, middle and high school teachers of the year.
The Macy’s Teacher of the Year award, which is sponsored by Macy’s department store and the Florida Department of Education, recognizes a teacher from each county in Florida who demonstrates a “superior ability to foster excellence in education and contribute to the continuous improvement of student learning and the school environment.”
The Macy’s Teacher of the Year is chosen from the same pool submitted for the Collier County award.
“I love teaching. I love you guys,” Graham told the fifth-graders as she accepted her flowers and a plaque from her students. “I appreciate that the district does honor teachers.”
Graham, who was surprised by Chief Academic Officer Cynthia Janssen and Principal Marilyn Moser, acknowledged that she would not have received the award unless Carmen Lopez, a fellow fifth-grade teacher, nominated her.
Lopez said Graham, who has been teaching for 15 years and has been at Avalon for five, inspired her.
“She doesn’t just think of her own students, either. She thinks of all of our students,” said Lopez.
Case in point: Graham was surprised in front of the entire fifth-grade class at Avalon because she brought in a guest speaker from Ethiopia to speak to the children.
“She exemplifies good teaching,” said Moser. “She does a fabulous job. She is very deserving.”
One by one, each recipient was surprised at school Thursday morning as they were acknowledged for their outstanding work.
Nardulli-Clark was the first to be surprised with the middle school teacher of the year award when assistant superintendent Eric Williams and staff carrying eight flower bouquets walked into her sixth-grade science class.
“I don’t know what to say. I thought I was in trouble,” wiping away tears Nardulli-Clark, said when she saw the administration group, including her husband Mason Clark, also a science teacher at North Naples Middle.
The sixth-graders cheered.
Paul Lauster, 11, and Steven Dekevich, 12, were among the students who said Nardulli-Clark is a good teacher.
“She’s patient,” Paul said.
Upon receiving the award, a shocked Nardulli-Clark, 30, said “these are great kids and they give to me as much as I give to them.”
North Naples Principal Frank Zencuch said she was deserving of the distinction.
“She’s excellent,” Zencuch said, adding that she is a creative teacher.
Clark, who has been a teacher for eight years, is the school’s science department head and a Naples Zoo liaison.
“She’s very deserving,” said Curt Witthoff, coordinator for science and environmental education for Collier County schools, who joined the staff to surprise her. “Definitely one of the top science teachers in the county.”
A few miles away, Williams surprised Hemrick, who has been teaching 30 years, of which 26 years have been in Collier County.
More than a dozen faculty members, including three generations of principals at Gulf Coast High and her husband, interrupted her algebra II class during a quiz.
“Holy smackers,” Hemrick, 52, said upon receiving the award.
“I’m very happy because there are so many qualified teachers in Collier County, so it’s wonderful to be honored like this,” she said.
Students sitting in the class agreed Hemrick was deserving of the award.
“She’s probably the best teacher in the school,” Gulf Coast senior Tom Sisca, 18, said.
Hemrick’s husband, Joe echoed students’ thoughts.
“She’s certainly deserving,” Joe Hemrick said. Their daughter, Caroline Hylemon, is also a teacher.
Tommie Barfield Elementary School Principal Jory Westberry said Braren deserved her honor.
“She’s fabulous, just fabulous. She gives up her morning planning to work with the kids and help them enjoy music and flourish,” she said. “No music teacher equals this one.”
Also honored today was Carolyn Rice who as a general secretary for New Beginnings, an alternative school in the district. Rice was honored as Collier County’s Florida School-Related Employee of the Year nominee.
All five employees will be recognized by the Collier County School Board at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail.
Monday, Apr. 9, 2007
The gym teacher who helped disarm a 14-year-old boy in a shooting at a Reno middle school last spring has been named the Red Cross Hero of the Year for northern Nevada.
Jenice Fagan was preparing to teach her gym class at Pine Middle
School when shots rang out in the hallway on that morning of March
She ran out to find James Scott Newman with a .38 caliber pistol that he’d already used to shoot a pair of classmates – one in the arm and chest and another who was hit in the leg by shrapnel.
Both victims recovered from their injuries but it could have been much worth had Fagan not been able express empathy with Newman and persuade him to put the gun on the floor. When he did, Fagan immediately bear-hugged him until more staff arrived.
Police said at the time Fagan had de-escalated a very dangerous situation. She says she believes anybody in the same situation would have done what she did.
Ashley Currie, Brock Country Day Early Education Center teacher, is planning on letting one of her students cut her hair.
The day care and learning center has been teaching students from kindergarten through sixth grade about community service.
The students have been bringing items to the school to be donated to Manna Storehouse Inc. and the Weatherford-Parker County Animal Shelter.
To motivate her students, Currie added a bit of challenge to the project.
As each student brings in their items, they will receive a ticket to be placed in a bucket. Monday, March 19, a student’s name will be drawn to see who gets to cut their teacher’s hair.
Currie planned on donating her brunette tresses to Locks of Love for a wig to be made for a child who suffers from cancer or a disease which leaves them hairless.
She got the idea after a few of her students did the same thing.
“Some of my other kiddos have donated their hair and it inspired me,” Currie said. “It was a really awesome way to help someone in need and I wanted to do the same thing.”
So far, about 20 students have brought in non-perishable canned goods, animal food, collars and kitty litter for both organizations.
“Having the kids help out teaches them community service,” Currie said. “I just thought it was a really neat way to get the kids involved and they’ve been doing really well with it.”
After school on Monday, she will pull her back in a rubber band and let the designated hairdresser whack away.
She said she will donate a minimum of 10 inches of her hair.
Currently, Currie’s hair extends to the center of her back, which took her two years to grow. Monday, however she has braced herself to have short, sassy locks above her shoulders.
“It will be a big change, but it’ll definitely be worth it,” she said.
Day Care owner, Barbee Phillips, said each year she chooses a different organization for school projects. In previous years, the school has adopted an angel child, donated to local food banks and Goodwill among other local activities.
Phillips said by participating in the projects, students learn that their efforts are part of the Christian way of life.
“We express that it demonstrates a lifestyle of giving,” Phillips said.
She described Currie as an educator who teaches by giving of herself.
“She was meant to be a teacher,” Phillips said. “She does it in a personal, creative way. She has brought cupcakes for the children to decorate, has patience with them and lets them decorate their rooms with their art.”
Phillips encourages Currie’s enthusiasm among other teachers and students and said the project was a great idea.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “It makes them feel involved. By doing this, it lets them know that she loves them and trusts them enough to be a part of this project.”
Ashley Reynolds of Out West Hair Salon in Brock has offered to donate her services to cut and highlight Currie’s hair following her student’s task.
Monday, Mar. 26, 2007
Maria Patti just can’t stop teaching.
After serving in the Army, teaching for 35 years in schools in Germany, Escambia County and Elberta, Ala. – and after raising four children of her own – Patti is back in the classroom.
The Pensacola native came out of retirement recently at age 74 to teach fifth grade at St. Michael Interparochial School in downtown Pensacola, where she was a student from 1938 to 1946.
“We’re not surprised that my mother has returned to the classroom,” said Michael Vann, one of Patti’s four children. “Teaching has always been her passion.”
Patti was a teacher from 1966 until her retirement in 2001.
Her passion for teaching was reignited late last year when St. Michael hired her as a substitute teacher to finish out the quarter.
“When I interviewed her, I saw that Ms. Patti had the experience and enthusiasm for teaching,” school Principal Lloyd Kinderknecht said.
“I’m glad that we’ve been able to keep her on as a full-time teacher.”
Patti, too, is excited to be back in the classroom.
“I couldn’t stand the boredom that’s associated with retirement,” said Patti, who turned 75 on Saturday.
“I love the art of learning, and I love children and teaching just seems the natural thing to do.”
Patti has brought with her an old-school, no-nonsense approach in her classroom.
Students have to raise their hands to ask or answer questions and must show respect for their peers.
Her current crop of fifth-graders seem to respond to her tack just as generations of students have before them.
“She teaches us very well, especially when it comes to reading, which is my favorite subject,” Louis Gomez said.
As much as she loves it, teaching was not Patti’s initial career goal.
As a youngster in the 1940s and 1950s, she loved to sing and entertain on the local scene.
“I wanted to be a singer when I grew up,” Patti said.
Patti honed those skills during the Korean War, when she served in the Women’s Army Corps in Germany. She was the lead singer for an Army nightclub band and the only person licensed to drive the band’s truck.
After returning to the United States, Patti thought of becoming a nun and briefly entered a Benedictine Catholic Convent in Cullman, Ala.
But those plans soon were dropped after she met and married James Vann, who worked at the Navy Yard as a plant technician. The couple divorced in 1978, and Vann died in 1987.
Teaching became a new career focus for Patti at the urging of her younger sister, Josie Merritt, who, at the time, was a teacher at a Catholic school in Alabama.
Merritt encouraged Patti to pursue higher education at the University of West Florida, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in education.
“I knew that Maria would love teaching because she has a way with children,” said Merritt.
“Maria wants each child she comes in contact with to succeed and reach their full potential,” Merritt said.
Patti’s first teaching assignment took her to St. Benedict Catholic School in Elberta, Ala., where all four of her children also attended.
“I remember when we would all pile up in the car and drive 20 miles each way,” recalled James Vann Jr., who now lives in Virginia.
Her latest teaching stint has even put Patti in touch with former students who have grown up to be co-workers.
Gina Williams is a former Patti student from St. Benedict. Williams now works as a bookkeeper and office manager at St. Michael.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I got her resume for the substitute-teaching job last year,” Williams said.
“Ms. Patti is vivacious and a wonderful teacher and today’s students are going to benefit a lot, just as we did when we were her students.”
Fifth-grader Krysta Moody agrees.
“Ms. Patti is the best teacher in the world. She’s just awesome,” Krysta said.
Thursday, Mar. 22, 2007
If it hadn’t been for a nasty dog bite, teacher Melinda Wilson would not have been standing in front of her dance class Wednesday holding a basket of apples.
That bloody bite—which made her faint a decade ago—convinced her she didn’t have the stomach to go to medical school. So she turned to another love—teaching dance—and spent the next nine years pushing students to new heights at Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago.
The extraordinary academic rigor of her classes and her personal commitment to students made her one of this year’s 10 winners of the Golden Apple Award—an honor Wilson called the “Super Bowl of teaching.”
“She’s always pushing you to be the best, not only in dance, but in everyday life,” said Curie senior Dario Martinez, who nominated his teacher for the award. “When I came into her class, there was such a sense of relief and freedom where you could just be yourself.”
Six Golden Apple teachers were honored Wednesday—two from private schools, two from suburban schools and two from Chicago public schools. Three more will be named Thursday, and fine arts teacher Gina Williams of Lake Forest Academy was surprised last week with the honor because her school is on spring break this week.
“I value academics and discipline,” said Wilson, 45, whose students turn in 20-page term papers for their midterms. “I love my kids, and I want them to realize that there are no limits to what they can achieve in my room.”
Meanwhile, when Golden Apple presenters arrived at Evanston Township High School, Aaron Becker, 38, and his students were sitting on rugs and pillows, studying their lesson in a classroom filled with ornate drapes, maps and Middle Eastern memorabilia.
On some days, the students help themselves to hot tea that the history teacher has brewed, sometimes with tea leaves he had bought during a visit to an exotic locale.
Senior Peter Brody stopped by to give his teacher a hug and said the Middle Eastern-themed classroom is just one way that Becker makes students feel comfortable. “You can tell he absolutely loves the subjects he teaches,” Brody said.
At Fenwick High, a Catholic school in Oak Park, Rev. Joseph Ekpo leaped into the air when he learned of his award. The Nigerian-born theology teacher was forced as a child to fight in a rebel army, was ordained as a priest in 1986, and later fled to the United States after he was marked for execution.
“I am dedicating this to God, to Jesus, to America, to Nigeria and to Catholic priests,” said Ekpo, 45. “God sent me to make religion meaningful, for students to experience God and to help them relate to God.”