SUSAN PRITCHARD, Ph.D.
“I spend a lot of my time getting better educated,” Pritchard said. “For me, it was to learn more, to become a better educated person. I'm not asking my students to do anything more than I'm doing.”
Pritchard's students create Alka-Seltzer-propelled rockets and experiment with buoyancy to experience firsthand the scientific properties they've read about.
She writes songs, including the “Buoyant Force Melody,” to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down,” and interrupts lab work to sing with her class: “Buoyant forces hold things up, oppose the gravity, which pulls things down …”
She uses these tactics to build knowledge one piece at a time, with cumulative tests to ensure that students refer to material from earlier in the year.
“She doesn't want you to forget about it. She wants you to keep it in your mind,” said eighth-grader Isidoro Serna. “To make sure, she makes us rewrite the notes and make it stick in our heads so we don't forget.”
Parent Lorri Varela saw a change in her daughter, Laine, after having Pritchard for eighth-grade science. Now a Sonora High School student, Laine is on a mission to take every science class the school offers.
“The lab work they did and the hands-on experiments, that's what set her on that path of being more in love with science,” Varela said. “She was more of a language arts kind of girl until eighth-grade year.”
Blanca Serna said her son, Isidoro, wasn't passionate about science until this fall, when he entered Pritchard's class. These days, he asks to spend his after-school hours in the robotics club Pritchard coaches.
“My goal is for them to understand that eighth grade is just a stepping point and high school is just a stepping point,” Pritchard said.
“You cannot stop at high school. You have to go beyond. You have to find something that you really love, that you're passionate about, and then go with it because that's your future.”
“She makes learning fun. I like that. I'm never bored in this class.” – Reginald Dequit, eighth-grader, Washington Middle School
“She will do anything and everything possible to help a kid that needs help. Anytime you see that it inspires people.” – Matt Bridgeford, history teacher, Washington Middle School
“She lives it and talks it and breathes it and wants that for every student that comes in her classroom.” – Mario Carlos, principal, Washington Middle School