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Teacher Of The Year Says: Science Rocks

by Mary Foisy, Nyack High School Science Teacher

There are so many amazing teachers in Rockland and Westchester Counties, and I am honored that Mercy College selected me as their ‘€˜Outstanding Rockland/Westchester Teacher.’ I certainly didn’t start out as an ‘€˜outstanding teacher’ when I began my teaching career 12 years ago. Coming from a career in engineering, I thought that teaching would be relatively easy, but I soon gained a new respect for teachers and the amount of effort they put into their jobs. I have become who I am, as a teacher, through the help and guidance of a myriad of outstanding teachers.

I am pleased that Mercy College is recognizing teachers, because the role we play is so important. We are entrusted with the care and education of students for thirteen years (sometimes more!) I am also pleased that Mercy College has chosen to recognize a science teacher. A solid background in science is vital to a well-rounded education. Students need to be scientifically literate; to be able to discern between valid scientific statements and statements based on political, religious, or personal opinions. Students need to recognize how science affects the decisions that they make every day ‘€“ from decisions about the products that they purchase and ultimately consume or dispose of, to the decisions affecting the air that they breathe and the water that they drink.

After teaching strictly physics classes for 10 years, two years ago I was given the opportunity to teach Science Research. This is great program, because through it, students spend three years exploring a science topic of their choice. Since each student chooses his/her own topic, each has a special commitment to the learning process. They gain a greater understanding of the scientific method. They have the opportunity to work with professional scientists. Finally, students learn how to write up their results and present research in front of an audience. A student doesn’t have to be a typical A-student to succeed in Science Research; they need only have the desire to learn, and the self-discipline to pursue their goals. The experience of teaching this course, although challenging in many ways, is very rewarding, because I get to observe the students over three years, as they learn and mature. I have also been amazed at the support provided by mentor scientists ‘€“ there are so many scientists in our community who happily share their intellect with the students.

Since I began teaching, I have had mentors, both formal and informal, from whom I have learned much. A group of dedicated physics teachers in Rockland County meet annually and are more than generous with their time and ideas. Since I have been teaching Science Research, many teachers from both Rockland and Westchester Counties have shared their materials with me, answered my questions, and provided advice. Teaching has been a challenging and rewarding career, and, like most teachers, I am constantly refining my methods and striving to make improvements. Everything that I have accomplished as a teacher has been done with the help of others. Therefore, the award of  ‘€˜Outstanding Teacher’ rightfully belongs to the composite group of outstanding teachers behind my success.

Nyack High School Science Teacher Mary Foisy was named the 2011 Outstanding Westchester/Rockland teacher of the year by Mercy College. Foisy teaches Advanced Placement Physics and Advanced Science Research. She also co-coaches the Science Olympiad team and advises students entering various science competitions, including the Intel Talent Search, the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, the Intel Science and Engineering Fair and Rockland County’s Science, Inventions, and Technology Fair.

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