Published: Published: August 8th, 2017

Back to School: What Your Teacher Did This Summer

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:

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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:

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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.

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Published: Published: August 2nd, 2017

Back to School: One Teacher’s Perspective

Teacher Kelsey Hoskins

Back-to-school activities are well underway throughout Arizona. Students are busy filling their last few days of freedom with swimming and marathon video game sessions, while parents are trying to round up the last few items on the class supply lists. And the teachers? Teachers are already hard at work, getting everything ready for the first day of school.

Meet Ms. Hoskins

Kelsey Hoskins gives some insight into what exactly “back-to-school” means for teachers. Ms. Hoskins grew up in Arizona and graduated from Northern Arizona University with degrees in history and secondary education. Though new to her current school, ASU Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, she taught the previous four years at The New Foundation, a residential treatment center that provides education to children facing various personal struggles and behavioral difficulties.

Like the high school freshmen she will be teaching, Ms. Hoskins is approaching this school year as the next phase of her education:

Teaching at The New Foundation was an incredible experience that shaped me as a teacher. I was not only helping children, but children who were going through intense personal struggles and needed guidance. However, after four years, I did decide to move on to teach here at ASU Prep because I believe it is another opportunity to grow and learn. It is impossible to be the best teacher I can be if I stay stagnant, and I am so excited to move into this new position and meet a whole new group of young minds.

Getting Ready for Day One

Since she is new to the ASU Preparatory Academy, Ms. Hoskins is busy planning her new curriculum. She’ll be taking over Ninth Grade World History and begin working with a small group of students working on their year-long capstone projects. She will mentor these same students for the rest of their high school careers.

Ms. Hoskins has also spent weeks handling the details of setting up a new classroom in a new (to her) school. Tasks include everything from figuring out where the classroom is located on campus to finding markers for the white board. With no hoard of leftover supplies or existing classroom decor, Ms. Hoskins’ classroom is a clean slate. In between deciding on the most effective classroom layout and making sure the classroom technology works, she is also getting to know her fellow teachers and, most importantly, getting it ready for students to learn.

What Makes a Successful Start?

Ms. Hoskins says her biggest priority in the run-up to school starting is making sure students are in a positive learning environment from Day One. This reflects her general teaching philosophy, which puts students and a positive learning environment first. The paperwork is merely a way to show the expertise behind the action.

What else makes a successful start? Ms. Hoskins wants to make sure students know that she is happy and excited to be their teacher. Her classroom reflects her personality, as well as her passion for teaching. Perhaps nothing better demonstrates the melding of personal and professional passions than the organization of her classes: students are “sorted” into Hogwarts houses just like in her (and many of her students’) favorite book series, Harry Potter.

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