By Corinne Wnek
“Teacher Feature” is a new column that offers readers a look into today’s classrooms so they can see some of the innovative teaching that is going on by talented educators right here in our communities.
One would never guess that gentle and soft-spoken Bernadette DeLaurie is a teaching dynamo in the classroom. This veteran biology teacher, who has spent the last nine years at Roselle Catholic High School, has a modern and refreshing philosophy about the role of the teacher in education today.
“I really believe that the most important thing a teacher can do is to figure out how their students learn,” she says. “Once we know how to reach students, then we can assess what they have been taught because everyone learns differently. I always try to find the key to a student’s learning style, even when I teach the advanced placement students, but more so when I have students who struggle with science.”
Ms. DeLaurie is originally from California where she worked for many years as a clinical chemist in a hospital. “This was ideal for me because I love lab work,” she says. Many years later, after moving east, she ventured into sales and marketing, a position that allowed her to travel all over the country. “I got to teach physicians, purchasing agents and salespeople all about the technical aspects of instrumentation.”
When she heard about a science opening at Roselle Catholic, Ms. DeLaurie was a little hesitant. “I didn’t have any experience teaching and felt like a fish out of water”, she says. “But I am adventurous, took relevant education and biology classes and decided to go for it. Teaching at Roselle Catholic has been an unbelievable experience.”
“The administration and teachers embraced me and really helped me find my way through this new experience. And you know, this is exactly what they do for students, too. This staff knows that high school can be tough and adolescence tougher. But we give a tremendous amount of support to all of our students, all the while holding them to a high standard of achievement.”
When asked about a favorite teaching activity, Ms. DeLaurie laughs and quickly goes on to tell the story of how her students depicted DNA while dancing to salsa music. “This was so much fun and really got the concept across as to how the nucleotides and enzymes react and bond to each other. This lesson was so effective because it was visual and fun.”
Although Ms. DeLaurie’s students surely know of her passion for nature and the environment, they might not know that she used to raise Arabian horses back in California. “This was such a joy. I also got to help deliver foals and will never forget the experience of watching nature unfold before your eyes”, she says smiling.
Nurturing, enthusiastic and creative define Bernadette DeLaurie’s teaching style. Her classroom is packed with students who meet after school to re-learn material they didn’t understand. “Students like to work in collaborative groups to help each other learn,” she says. “Everyone can achieve here. That’s what makes Roselle Catholic so special. Teaching isn’t just a job, it’s our vocation.”
Corinne Wnek believes that teachers, and the administrators and boards of education which support their work, deserve a big, red apple for doing an outstanding job in shaping our most important commodity, the lives of our children. Her weekly column, “The Writer’s Block,” already appears every Friday in the online edition of this publication.
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