Back to School: What Your Teacher Did This Summer

August 8th, 2017
What Your Teacher Did This Summer

Being a great teacher is as much about learning as it is about teaching. Fortunately, Arizona offers teachers opportunities for continuing education both throughout the school year and during school breaks. For obvious reasons, many teachers choose to pursue more time-intensive opportunities during the non-teaching months of summer. Luca Febbraro of Tucson is one such teacher.

Mr. Febbraro holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Masters of Art in Teaching Science from Northern Arizona University ( He teaches high school Biology and (soon) Computer Science at Andrada Polytechnic High School in Vail School District. As such, Mr. Febbraro was a natural candidate for the Teachers in Industry program. He explains:

The program I enrolled in is Teachers in Industry, through the [University of Arizona]. The purpose is to get STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) teachers real-world industry experience and bring it back into the classroom. My internship was with TEP (Tucson Electric Power), where I worked in their environmental department.

Throughout the summer, I was in charge of managing the [Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] permit in one of their northern Tucson locations. I had to collect water samples for multiple tests, including whole effluent toxicity (WET) testing.

I got the opportunity to see a lot of what goes into an environmental department and how it relates to maintaining our current ecosystem. With the internship, I also took a professional development class at the UofA, where we studied such topics as motivation and mastery.

The Teachers in Industry program integrates paid work experience at Arizona businesses in STEM fields with credits toward teachers’ professional development or graduate degrees in education. This provides teachers with a more grounded understanding of how their students will eventually use what they are being taught. The program also allows them to spend the summer immersed in a subject they love. In Mr. Febbraro’s case, that is Biology:

Aside from the hands-on experience in all the water sampling I did, I was also monitoring the removal of four water runoff ponds at the plant, acting as a liaison between my boss and the supervisor in charge of removing the ponds. These ponds had been around since the ‘70s and had been home to many birds, including black-necked stilts.

While the ponds were being removed, there was a family of black-necked stilts that had just hatched their eggs, and were unable to vacate the pond right away. So, on top of monitoring the ponds, I also watched these baby birds grow to the point where they could fly and move to the pond that wasn’t being removed.

Mr. Febbraro plans to incorporate both on-the-job and classroom skills built over the summer into this year’s classes:

The biggest thing I will be bringing into the classroom will be the use of problem-based learning in my teaching. As far as content goes, I have a unit that discusses human impact on biodiversity. In this unit, I can discuss the lengths that utilities have to go through to protect and not destroy our environment.