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Derry Area High School biology teacher recognized by St. Vincent College program

| Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, 3:57 p.m.

Derry Area High School biology, anatomy and physiology teacher Alisha Ungvarsky prides herself on pushing students to meet high expectations.

Her rigorous teaching style made enough of an impact for Ungvarsky to be one of 23 teachers recognized by the St. Vincent College Great Teacher Recognition Program for 2014.

“I'm not afraid to push the kids,” said Ungvarsky, who is in her sixth year of teaching at Derry. “I take my classes kind of to the next level when it comes to my expectations for them, whether it's freshmen in high school or the seniors sitting in my class. I tell them it's not going to be an easy road, but we're going to get through it together. I push them beyond what they think they're capable of doing.

“I've had a couple of them come back to me over the past few years and say, ‘Thank you for pushing me as hard as you did and really making me work,' ” she said. “I always believe in them.”

The program honors high school teachers nominated by St. Vincent freshmen “for excellence in teaching that provides a positive and enduring influence on students.”

Ungvarsky was nominated by 2014 Derry graduate Angela Bialas, who took advanced biology and dual-enrollment anatomy and physiology courses taught by Ungvarsky while at Derry.

“Angela just had a drive for science. She loves the medical field. I believe she's going in to be a dentist,” Ungvarsky said. “She just was a very hard worker, very dedicated, very driven, and we just kind of had a connection because we both had the love of biology and anatomy and physiology and the sciences.”

Derry principal Dr. Kathy Perry said Ungvarsky's dual-enrollment anatomy and physiology course for seniors is not for the faint of heart.

“She works with some of the students who are prepping to be nurses and doctors and in the medical field,” Perry said. “The program is very rigorous; it's a dual-enrollment class, so the students receive college credit as well as high school credit. I know it is a very rigorous course for high school seniors.

“She really expects a lot from them, and she doesn't want to mislead them into thinking that career path is going to be something they can take lightly,” Perry added. “I just know that kids leaving her program are well-prepared to take on the next step.”

In letters of congratulations to the selected teachers, St. Vincent President Brother Norman Hipps, O.S.B., thanked the teachers for “making a difference” in the personal and intellectual development of their students.

“Teaching is a wonderful profession, and Saint Vincent College recognizes the important role teachers play in the development of youth,” Hipps wrote.

Ungvarsky said the nomination and recognition came as a surprise.

“It was a very humbling experience, truthfully,” she said. “I was very surprised and felt very honored and very humbled at the same time.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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