Mike Sturgill, a former physics teacher and current principal of Chilhowie High School in Southwest Virginia, wrote in to tell us about how VISTA helped a professional scientist turned chemistry teacher working in his school. “I saw firsthand the benefits he experienced due to his participation in the program,” Sturgill exclaimed.
When Dr. Mark Frazier came to Chilhowie High School, he had underwent several career changes – from a scientist at both St. Jude and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, to a full-time minister, to a high school chemistry and biology II teacher.
Like many career changers, Dr. Frazier had decided to become a teacher to share his extensive, real world scientific knowledge with students. Despite his experience as a scientist, when he came to my school he was new to teaching, and therefore greatly benefitted from the specialized training that VISTA offered in their Secondary Teaching Program.
As the school principal, I was very impressed with the VISTA program because, along with the valuable professional development it provided, Dr. Frazier was able to get much-needed science equipment into his classroom as well.
Last year, Dr. Frazier bought a Hoffman apparatus with the funds VISTA gave him. According to Dr. Frazier, a Hoffman apparatus is an elegant piece of glassware that allows an electric current to be passed through water or other liquids. Water, for instance, can be decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen gases. The gases are collected in separate tubes, allowing student observers to see that the water is in actuality two hydrogen atoms for every oxygen atom.
Dr. Frazier told me: “I have learned many useful ways to do more hands-on activities with very simple and inexpensive materials. I have also learned to allow time to let the students explore subject matter on their own as well. I would like to give a lot of credit, appreciation and thanks to the coach that VISTA provided me with, who came in and offered a lot of insight and useful input. The students came to look forward to her visits, which is the best testimony of all.”
As a former physics teacher, I see the VISTA program as an integral component in assisting new teachers with the training and equipment they need to be successful in the 21st century classroom.