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Teachers share tales of summer vacation
Some use break for learning
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Forsyth County News


The new school year is under way and the hallways have been buzzing with what students did over summer vacation.

But they’re not the only ones with stories to tell from the break. Several Forsyth County teachers also did some traveling.

“I told [the kids] what I did and they were just on the edge of their seats,” said Rebecca Austin, a biotechnology and forensics teacher at West Forsyth High School.

Austin spent a week at the Food and Drug Administration’s food science professional development program in Washington, D.C.

The workshop, offered through a partnership with the National Science Teachers Association, took Austin and 19 other high school teachers through the FDA facilities and a USDA farm.

They developed curriculum to use with students and share with other science teachers.

“Students sometimes think science is what we present it as, which is often book work … but real science is so different from that,” Austin said.

“So when I can tell students about that, it just blows their minds.”

Getting students excited about learning is also a goal of William Schuyler, who teaches anatomy, physiology and biology at Forsyth Central High.

It’s what earned him the 2011 Georgia Outstanding Biology Teacher Award. The honor, presented by the National Association of Biology Teachers, is given to one teacher in each of the 50 states.

It came as a surprise to Schuyler, who was in Kansas City grading Advanced Placement biology exams when a fellow test grader congratulated him.

“I found out that way,” said Schuyler, who began his career as a pulmonary medicine research specialist at Emory University. “I was quite surprised, in all honesty.

“There’s always room for improvement, and I’m always thinking in that vent, so I was definitely surprised.”

Patti Grammens was among more than 100 educators who spent a week at the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute in San Diego.

The event offers new ways to use media in the classroom and “to engage students and make learning more fun and more rewarding.”

Grammens, an eighth-grade physical science teacher at Lakeside Middle, is on the Georgia leadership council for the organization.

“I was able to share … with other educators there the things we’ve been doing,” she said.

“I’ve been especially active with video conferencing with different schools. I learned a lot about green screening and student productions in the classroom so that the students can learn new techniques on how to produce short video clips.”

Workshops and grading may not seem like the best way to spend a summer, but for Austin it was a chance to try different things.

Between teaching summer school, her trip to Washington D.C. and attending a few other local workshops, she didn’t “feel like I really had a summer.”

“But I can honestly say that I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more invigorated to start a school year,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of schooling and been in a lot of workshops and I’d say of the 14 years in the classroom, this was the single best opportunity I’ve ever had.”