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Highland View Academy Teacher Wins Science Awards

Story by Danny Barizo and Visitor Staff
Published on 4/10/2012

Left to right: Paul Stokstad, PASCO president and founder; Dori Haggerty, PASCO National Education Development manager; Ophelia Barizo, HVA Science chair; and Patricia Simmons, NSTA president
Ophelia Barizo, Science Department chair at Highland View Academy (HVA) in Hagerstown, Md., recently received two awards. She received the 2012 PASCO STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Educator Award for the high school level during the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) national conference held in Indianapolis, Indiana, from March 29-April 1.

“I praise God for these awards, and to Him be the glory,” Barizo enthusiastically shared. “I am thankful for all His gifts.”

The award recognizes excellence and innovation in the field of STEM education. The award is sponsored by PASCO, a company that develops “technology-based solutions for hands-on science,” and has been serving schools in more than 100 countries around the world. NSTA is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching. It has a membership of “approximately 60,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives and others involved in science education.”

Barizo received a check for $1,000, $2,000 in PASCO products for her school and, $1,500 toward expenses to attend the NSTA national conference. Barizo also won the Shell Science Lab Challenge for Region 3, which includes Washington, D.C., Maryland and Delaware. The award comes with a $3,000 prize, which will be used to upgrade science laboratory facilities of the school.

How will these awards impact HVA’s science programs? “We will be acquiring electronic probes for measuring temperature, pH and other variables. We will also be acquiring new PASCO Sparkvue Handheld lab systems,” Barizo says. “These will help us integrate more technology in our science curriculum, which will develop important critical thinking skills. We will also be acquiring biotechnology lab kits. Everything we expect to receive and acquire will enhance STEM learning, which is so important if we are to maintain cutting-edge science education at HVA.”

Barizo, who teaches environmental science, biology, chemistry and forensic science, has already implemented various technology-infused STEM activities in her classroom. For example, she has partnered with two-Chesapeake Bay-related organizations and has gained funding for field trips and equipment for water monitoring. Her students do hands-on and interactive activities outdoors and use sensing equipment to test Bay water quality. She also provides her students with project-based science education that incorporates hands-on learning, scientific inquiry, and critical thinking skills.

Her numerous awards and honors include the “Making a Difference” Award from the NSTA and the Drug, Chemical, and Associated Technologies Association in 2010; a Toyota Tapestry Grant for Teachers in 2009; an Environmental Award from HVA’s alumni association; was named Washington County Private School Teacher of the Year in 2005; and the Columbia Union Conference Outstanding Educator of the Year for 2008-2009. In addition, she has been awarded over $750,000 in grant funds from various foundations for innovative classroom projects and technology.

Barizo says her drive for excellence is derived from her passion for science education. “As a teacher, my goal is to provide relevant and quality, project-based science education, with excellent opportunities for hands-on learning, scientific inquiry and development of critical thinking skills,” she says. “One of my desires as a teacher is to inspire learning in my students, and to model the excitement, which comes with learning and discovery.”

Ophelia Barizo (second) is pictured with her students on the scientific workboat, the Snowgoose, during a field trip to the Baltimore Harbor, where they studied the impact of human activities on water quality.