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Young science teacher at Franklin Regional enjoying benefits of NSTA fellowship

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Alisa Jacobson | For The Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional teacher Rebecca Hauser helps Alexis Martonik understand a point in chemistry class. Hauser is taking part in a teaching fellowship this year and says the experience makes her want to be a become a teaching mentor, herself.

A Franklin Regional Senior High School chemistry teacher has joined a prestigious group that is dedicated to professional development, peer support and enhancing the quality of science education.

Rebecca Hauser, a third-year teacher at the high school, is in the midst of a one-year fellowship with the National Science Teachers Association as a participant in its New Science Teacher Academy.

During this academic year, Hauser is being mentored online by a veteran chemistry teacher. She also will continue to take part in a variety of web-based professional development activities, including web seminars.

The association is the largest professional organization for science teachers in the world, with about 55,000 members nationwide, said spokeswoman Kate Falk. The association started the academy in 2007 with the goal of reducing the attrition rate of second- through fifth-year science teachers.

“A lot of times, new science teachers say they feel isolated, and they don't have a lot of resources for support,” Falk said. “So the program is designed to enhance teacher confidence, in addition to improving teachers' content knowledge.”

Of more than 1,000 applicants, 200 were selected as fellows this academic year.

Described as dedicated, kind and inspirational by curriculum coordinator Julie Shank, Hauser said her main goal in the classroom is to show students how chemistry is relevant in their lives. She does this by showing students real-life chemistry applications and incorporating technology such as iPhone cellphones into her lessons.

“Science is always changing,” Hauser said. “It's never going to stagnate. It's up and coming, and chemistry is the future.”

Hauser graduated from St. Francis University three years ago and began teaching at Franklin Regional soon after. A lover of learning, she currently is working toward a master's degree in science education from St. Vincent University, near Latrobe.

Senior high Principal Ron Suvak said Hauser is driven to improve as an educator and to refine her practice every year.

“She is, first and foremost, an exceptional practitioner in the classroom,” Suvak said. “She is able to design lesson plans that engage students, which leads to high levels of learning for all her kids. Secondly, she is able to build meaningful, positive relationships with all of her stakeholders — her kids, her colleagues, administration, parents.

“She's everything you could hope for in an educator and then some.”

The fellowship will culminate in a national conference in Boston in April, which each fellow will attend courtesy of the academy's sponsors. There, fellows will attend workshops and meet the peers and mentor with whom they have discussed content, method and pedagogy throughout the school year.

After completing the program, Hauser hopes to become a mentor.

“I really found this program to be so beneficial,” she said. “And I would like to share my knowledge that I have gained and will continue to gain from other people with other mentees in the future.”

Andrea Frazier is a freelance writer.

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