SOUTH DEERFIELD – The absence of a dedicated biotechnology program at Frontier Regional School does not prevent Stacey Chapley from integrating it into her program. It also didn’t stop her from being named the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation Professor of Biotechnology of the Year.
Named the Henri A. Termeer Educator Award, this honor “recognizes the dedicated life science teachers of Massachusetts schools who guide their students by answering and, most importantly, asking rich questions in a spirit of scientific excellence,” according to the organization’s website. More than 200 schools in the state had appointed teachers.
Chapley, who has been a science teacher for seven years, said she didn’t expect to win the award and it just happened to fall on the very day she celebrated her wedding anniversary.
“I was so surprised,” said Chapley sitting in his class after school. “It was absolutely like, ‘What ?!'”
Chapley teaches introduction to biology, advanced placement biology (AP), forensic science, and a course called science-tech, which is based on engineering and physics. Chapley said all of his classes are designed to engage students with hands-on activities to pique their interest in science.
“My goal is to try to have an active classroom,” Chapley explained. “The kids do their homework, which prepares them with some of that vocabulary and that basic knowledge, and then they actually come in and we do modeling and labs based on reading.”
She said she wanted to share her love of learning with her students and that she loved seeing the metaphorical light bulb light up in their heads.
“I get them all excited and it’s like, ‘Whether you like science or not, science happens to you,'” said Chapley. “I love seeing those ‘Aha’ moments.”
Chapley gave the example of protein folding in biology. Instead of showing an animation or reading about shape-changing proteins that are “hard to understand,” students are given a model that can be folded.
“We actually have models that kids can bend and manipulate based on the rules of chemistry,” Chapley said. “It’s very kinesthetic and it’s easier for students to understand and understand what’s really going on on such a microscopic level. ”
Chapley has worked with the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation in the past to secure grants for laboratory equipment for more advanced activities such as PCR reactions, which is a method of copying DNA used in the forensic field. .
She said incorporating lab experiments linked to real-world experiments is crucial in building student enthusiasm for science.
“It gets the kids involved, it definitely does,” Chapley said. “That’s what real people do in their jobs and it’s not that theoretical to them.”
Even when students were estranged or hybridized due to the pandemic, Chapley was determined to find a way to keep lab experiments in her program. She sent home test kits to her biotech students and even allowed small groups of students to come in after school to work on more complex experiments.
“It was not the ideal situation,” she said. “We did the best we could. ”
Chapley said his goals for the future include expanding biotechnology opportunities for students while working with more children one-on-one for independent research.
“I’m excited about where we are at and where we’re going,” Chapley said. “Our goal as a department is that everyone, no matter what teacher they have, is exposed to the use of biotechnology equipment.”
Whitney Hagins, a teacher and curriculum specialist at the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation, said in a statement that the organization is looking for a teacher in Massachusetts who will inspire students to get into biotechnology.
“We were specifically looking for teachers who have had a strong impact on bringing biotechnology to their students,” Hagins said in a statement. “The fact that Stacey was chosen when Frontier does not have a biotech program or background speaks volumes about her dedication and the impact she has on her students and colleagues. Stacey embodies the concept of a lifelong learner.
Chapley was nominated for the Henri A. Termeer Educator Award by several of her colleagues in the science department, including science department chair Kristin Dolcimascolo, who is an eighth grade teacher.
Dolcimascolo said it was not shocking to learn that Chapley won the award, noting that four people from the science department have nominated her in recent years.
“It’s just amazing and I’m not surprised, but I’m so happy that she’s getting the recognition she deserves,” Dolcimascolo said. “She works so hard and she is a great colleague.
Dolcimascolo said Chapley has secured more than $ 8,000 in equipment through her relationship with the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation and that she is developing a biotechnology program at Frontier.
“She designed our biotechnology course. Stacey did it all from scratch with her pure passion, ”Dolcimascolo said. “Its impact is greater than its class. … She is just amazing.
Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.