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Bedford’s Teachers of Tomorrow scores national honor

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By John Barnhart

    The  Teachers for Tomorrow program at Bedford Science and Technology Center (BSTC) earned an honor last month when students participated in the Future Educators Association (FEA) National Conference held in Baltimore, Md.

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    Four Bedford County students along with Shawn Horrell, the Teachers for Tomorrow instructor, participated. This was the Bedford program’s first trip to the event, and the first time the students entered a project in the FEA National Competition.
    Their team was one of six to compete and the BSTC group won second place.
    Their project, a group effort for the class, was done in October. The students presented lessons on energy at Jefferson Forest High School, Liberty High School and Staunton River Middle School. The students also conducted a “Meet the Expert” assembly at BSTC, featuring Drake Watts from Watts Petroleum in November 2011.
     Natalie Updike of Staunton River High School said the lessons were a collaborative effort by the Future Teachers, but they each had their responsibilities.
    “Every single one of us had a job,” commented  Karly VanHorn of Jefferson Forest High School.
    “It was like team teaching,” added  Haley Wissinger of Liberty High School.
    The class jointly developed the lesson plan that they used, then the students presented it at their high schools. The exception were the students at SRHS. They presented their lesson at Staunton River Middle School.
    “Students particularly pay attention when you relate the lesson to what affects them,” said Updike, relating her middle school experience.
    Teaching the lesson at the middle school, rather than her high school, did have an advantage. It was easier for Updike, a senior, to get the respect of sixth and seventh graders as they were not her peers.
    “We knew a lot of the people in the class,” said VanHorn.
    The lesson that the students taught included PowerPoint presentations, interactive student activities on energy, and an online energy survey by the National Foundation for Energy Education. After the lesson, each Teacher of Tomorrow student wrote reflections on the project and these were included in the written essay in the project’s portfolio that was submitted for the competition. The portfolio also included pictures, newspaper coverage of the project and lesson plans and the PowerPoints they used. This is why the local FEA chapter was in the competition in the first place. As a result of what they submitted, they were invited to present their project at the conference in  Baltimore.
    BSTC sponsored four students, Wissisnger and VanHorn along with Carrie McCane and Sarah McCreery, to represent the  FEA chapter at the competition. While there they attended teaching workshops and VanHorn found one on how children’s emotions affect them in the classroom to be especially valuable. VanHorn wants to be a child psychologist.
    They also heard from speakers, such as the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the National Teacher of the Year for 2011. The one who impressed them the most was an actress named America Ferrera, who played the lead role in a TV series called “Ugly Betty.” Updike said that the show is about a nerdy girl.
    “She just kind of has unfortunate things happen,” Updike said, explaining the show.
    The presentation by this relatively young actress impressed the four who went to Baltimore.
    “She had gone through the things that most high school students could relate to,” said  Wissisnger.
    “She told us her life story,” VanHorn explained.
    They also enjoyed another feature of the trip.
    “We went shopping,” said VanHorn. “It was fun!”
    But, they like Bedford County better than Baltimore.
    “It made me feel like I don’t want to live in the city,” said VanHorn.
    “The people are nicer here,” commented  Wissisnger.
    While VanHorn wants to be a psychologist, which, she realizes will require a master’s degree, Updike and  Wissisnger plan to major in elementary education. All three are looking forward to careers working with children, which is what brought them into the Teachers of Tomorrow program.