Monday, June 25, 2007
PhD candidate receives Teacher of the Year honors
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
The Harper Woods Secondary School is moving to a new building and teacher June Teisan could decorate her new classroom with all the awards she has recently received, including the 2007-08 Michigan Teacher of the Year. Teisan adds the title to two other distinctive honors from the previous two years: The 2006 Jacqueline Lougheed Scholarship from OU and a 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), the nation’s highest honor for teaching in these fields.
Each school district in Michigan can nominate one teacher for the Michigan Teacher of the Year award. The teachers then complete a 16-page application and provide a vitae. The state selects four finalists and the winner finds out about the award during a surprise assembly at the school. Teisan was shocked when she learned she was receiving the award.
“We are closing our old high school after 50-plus years of service to the community. I was told that’s why we were having the assembly and bringing in officials from the state,” Teisan said. Instead, she learned she was receiving the Teacher of the Year award and Teisan was happy to celebrate with her colleagues and students.
In previous years, Michigan’s Teacher of the Year received a sabbatical year to travel and connect with other schools. This year, that sabbatical isn’t being offered so Teisan will be fulfilling her Teacher of the Year duties on top of teaching science and a literature circle class. She plans to hold a number of virtual meetings with teachers from around the state.
And that’s only part of what Teisan has going on in the near future. She finished the Education Specialist program at Oakland University in 2004 and completed her doctoral coursework in education in 2006. Now she is working on comprehensive exams for her dissertation and hopes to conduct research in the area soon.
Teisan’s dissertation will focus on home school settings and science education.
“We have an idea of what goes on with reading and math, because the students are measured in that area, but not in science,” Teisan said. “I’d like to get a quick snapshot of what’s going on with science in the home school environment.”
Teisan said what she has learned at Oakland University has an impact on who she is in the classroom. She said she has learned about resources that are available and also how to see her classroom as more than an isolated place.
“Teaching is important work. It also involves some behind-the-scenes work. If a student didn’t come to class with their homework, it might not be that they don’t care; it might be the culture at home. I have learned that you have to see the larger world when you are looking into the face of the child in your classroom,” Teisan said.
With a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in English, Teisan can connect to her students through multiple subjects.
Each year, Teisan rotates between teaching science and a health class or science and a literature circle class. This year, she will teach the literature class, something she hopes helps the students connect on a deeper level.
“What I have done is develop a literature circle class with a multicultural theme. We discuss what is going on with each character and many times the themes can be applied to the world around us,” Teisan said.
In her science classes Teisan engages students through many hands-on activities, something she has been recognized for in the past. Teisan received the Closing the Technology Gap in Education award from DaimlerChrysler and the Detroit Science Center for two consecutive years. The award recognizes use of technology to ignite student enthusiasm and interest.
Teisan is also involved with a multimedia intensive interdisciplinary program to explore phenomenon of environments. This year, the project focused on storms and last year it looked at Mars. The students explore the topic from the areas of social studies, math and science. The school received a $500 grant to support the program.
In addition, Teisan has received $500 in funding for a morning program for students interested in science. The program begins at 6:45 a.m. and Teisan uses Legos to help teach students simple machine principles.
“The program is targeted toward at-risk learners. We want to get them involved and make them feel capable. The program helps with reading levels and communication skills as well,” Teisan said.
Teisan is also helping teachers around the nation. She participated in a Centers for Disease Control conference as one of eight teachers in the Science Ambassador program.
“I sat with scientists, listening to their research,” Teisan said. “My payback was to write a four- to five-day lesson plan incorporating what I learned to teach to middle school students. The plan will go through the CDC clearance process and if it passes, it will be posted on the CDC Web site for all teachers. We are taking important public health topics and making them accessible to teachers who don’t have time to translate them into lessons.”
Teisan is working on lesson plans for topics related to pet-borne illnesses.
With so much time devoted to her students and her studies, it’s hard to imagine Teisan has time for her family or her church, which are important parts of her life.
“As a teacher, you have to realize from the start that you aren’t going to be all things to all people and you don’t need to be all things to all people. There are sacrifices you make because you are in education. It’s a balancing act to juggle all that I do and I just pray a lot,” Teisan said.