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High school science teachers go back to class (7-05-01)

Thirteen high school and middle school teachers from San Antonio and Laredo spent a recent summer day taking turns lying on a couch in a laboratory at the Health Science Center. Although they may have been tired after completing the spring semester of teaching, they were not there to rest. They were measuring each other's heart rates on laptop computers.

The teachers signed up for an intensive, two-day physiology workshop designed to enrich their knowledge and experience in science. The free workshop also served another purpose. "It allowed fellow science teachers Roy Baldwin, Jo Eckerman and Andrea Wise, who have been attending night classes for two years toward a master of science degree in physiology from the Health Science Center, to try their hand at conducting a program for their colleagues and teaching them about human physiology," said Duane Proppe, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and director of the K-12 master of science degree program in physiology at the Health Science Center.

"This is great," said Christina Rivera, a Taft High School science teacher, who recently moved to San Antonio from El Paso and jumped at the chance to be a student for two days. "It's good to be able to learn something new that we can take back to the classroom in the fall." She and fellow teachers watched as the computer drew a graph of one teacher's heart rate recorded while lying down and standing. Then they answered questions posed by physiology department faculty member Jeremiah Herlihy, Ph.D. "What does your body have to do to compensate when you suddenly stand up?" he asked.

Children learn more from teachers who are able to engage them in a subject. Baldwin, who teaches anatomy, physiology and biology at John Marshall High School in San Antonio, explained, "Kids love to learn, but the challenge is to interest them in what you want them to learn. Physiology is a perfect subject for science teachers because their students have bodies and heart rates and blood pressures and they can see the relationship of the science to their own lives."

Baldwin has almost reached the end of his night classes at the Health Science Center. When he does, he will earn his second master's degree. "I have to complete my research and write my thesis," he said. "Even after I get my second master's I'm going to be teaching science. I enjoy learning, and this will give me more background to impart to the students."

The master's program geared for busy teachers is similar to one available in the Health Science Center's microbiology department. Grants from the Amy Shelton McNutt Charitable Trust of San Antonio, the Brackenridge Foundation and the San Antonio Area Foundation support the physiology master's degree program and two-day summer workshop.

The American Physiological Society, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Association of American Medical Colleges Health Professions Partnership Initiative (which sponsored the three participants from Laredo), and Vernier Software and Technology (which markets the heart monitoring equipment) also provided support for the workshop.

Contact: Will Sansom