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Science educator named Teacher of Year

The Baltimore Sun

An Edgewood High School biology teacher whose science lessons include a biochemical ballet and a mock CSI episode, has been named Harford County Teacher of the Year.

Christine Roland received the keys to a scarlet 2007 Nissan Altima to use for a year, a Dell laptop, a watch and gift certificates worth about $1,000 to local restaurants.

Roland was given the honor at a banquet Thursday at the Bayou Restaurant.

Students and colleagues praised Roland for making science relevant and enjoyable. Students in her class solved a "crime," using their scientific skills in an exercise drawn from the CSI television shows.

An English class at the high school wrote a story line similar to those on CSI, and drama students performed. Roland's forensics students followed the evidence to track down the perpetrator a few days later.

Roland also created a class in which students sequence their DNA.

"I have a bit of an unorthodox teaching style," Roland said. "I try things differently because I think science has to be fun."

She also produced a DVD called Dancing Nucleotides, in which students wore different colored T-shirts while they zipped across the school's football field to show how DNA works.

"It's amazing to see 150 of your students dancing and running around the football field, playing different parts in the production of the DNA" said Joseph Schmitz, principal of Edgewood High School. Roland is "not afraid to challenge kids. She thinks of things that are always fresh and new."

Two years ago, Liz Byer first walked into Roland's biology class.

"I never felt like I was good enough in science," Byer said.

But her teacher did not agree and urged Byer to take the honors biology class. Now the 17-year-old senior takes an Advanced Placement biology class, tutors other science students and plans to pursue a career in the health sciences.

"It has definitely been a struggle, sometimes. But having Mrs. Roland as a teacher, it made me want to learn more," Byer said.

Roland, a native of Switzerland, is fluent in French and German, as well as English. Before becoming a teacher, she was a scuba instructor in Egypt and Honduras.

When asked whether teaching or scuba diving was more exciting, she replied, "At my age, teaching."

Roland has taught at Edgewood High for five years.

"She's an absolutely innovative teacher," said Amy Woolf, a fellow science teacher at the school. "Every idea is creative, cutting edge and student-centered."

Other Teacher of the Year finalists included Sondra Cawthorne of the Alternative Education Center; Jeana Essery of Fallston Middle School; Kathleen Garafola of North Bend Elementary; Brian Gunter of C. Milton Wright High; Sharalyn Heinly and Angela Jones, both of North Harford Middle; Lisa Keller of Fountain Green Elementary; Rebekah McCord of Joppatowne High; and Andrea Yeager of Abingdon Elementary.

Each received a check for $1,200 from HAR-CO Federal Credit Union and commemorative pins from Harford County public schools.

Peers, students and parents nominated the finalists. A committee of 15 members, including former teachers, students, business leaders and parents reviewed the nominations.

Roland will compete for the Maryland Teacher of the Year award.

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