Back to School Advice: Take Risks, Go Global

Angela Chapman

Angela Chapman is like most teachers. She isn't in the classroom for the money.

But, she admits it was nice to get a $10,000 check and the recognition that comes with being one of only 44 teachers out of 75,000 nominees in the nation honored by Disney.

CHAPMAN: I loved depositing that check in the bank which I already did. My school also won $5,000 which my principal set aside for science funds.

Chapman teaches seventh grade science at Sleepy Hill Middle School in Lakeland.

She was there less than two months when her innovative lessons won her notice. Chapman organized a school-wide Metric Olympics to teach all 1100 students the metric system.

CHAPMAN: I remember driving into school that morning and I was the first one there when they opened the gates and I had to tell myself the worse thing they can do is fire you. (Laughs) Every time I try one big project, I mean I'm always trying a big project I've never tried before, anytime I try a big project like that, it's the same level of risk.

She says the secret to success is a willingness to take risks.

CHAPMAN: With other teachers, don't be afraid to take risks because you don't know if something is going to work or not. And, that's the only way you're going to find out. And, with parents and students, be involved. I mean get as involved as you can. That parental involvement and support just makes all the difference with kids in the classroom and their success in the classroom which is what we're after.

Chapman took one of her biggest risks two years ago when she became a middle school teacher after spending more than a decade teaching college students.

CHAPMAN: It's hard to stay in teaching 20 some years. It's tough. It's a lot of hard work. I mean what I've done for the past two years is a lot harder than anything I've ever done in college teaching. I don't care. I'll do it. I'll work 80 hours a week if I have to and that doesn't bother me.

Long hours and hard work are the hallmark of Lauren Yeager's academic career. She just graduated from Eckerd College with a 4.0 grade point average and double major in marine science and Spanish.

Her secret to success: do what you love.

YEAGER: A lot of my family are actually artists which really contrasts with my really strong science background. But, my dad was really interested in science and he volunteered at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. And, he took us up there every week just about and we got to do all the behind the scenes stuff like preparing food for the animals.

She offered another tip for today's students: think and learn globally.

YEAGER: I did a senior research thesis for my bachelor of science in Costa Rica. And I lived down there with my sister for three months. And, I think that experience changed both our lives. You grow as a person when you really live outside the country or really have international experiences. And, I definitely think it makes you more marketable. It might not be necessary for everyone, but I think it's becoming more and more necessary for variety of fields whether its business or science or art.

Yeager's experiences won her a Fulbright Scholarship which she will use to study coral reef ecology in Mexico. She leaves later this month.

On Friday, Seventh Grade Science teacher Angela Chapman will be setting up her new classroom for a new batch of students and set of experiments beginning next week.

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