Editor's note: This is the second of two reports on Clayton County teachers honored for their accomplishments by a major foundation.
By Curt Yeomans
Reshawndra Hutchins wanted to be a research scientist when she was five.
By the time she turned 10, however, Hutchins had changed her mind and wanted to pursue a career as a marine biologist.
In high school, it was the medical field which caught her fancy.
As a biology student at Howard University, Hutchins decided she didn't want her parents to have the burden of paying for medical school, so she eventually went into teaching.
She ended up at Pointe South Middle School in her hometown of Jonesboro -- the same school she attended for two years during her childhood.
"I've always wanted to do something with science," Hutchins said. "The best part about science is it's always changing. History doesn't change. In an English class, a declarative sentence is always going to be a declarative sentence. In science, things change everyday and that's the cool part about it."
Hutchins, who has taught science, math and social studies at Pointe South for seven years, recently learned she and Mundy's Mill High School teacher Sabrina Isdell are two of the 10 Georgia science teachers who will receive the 2008 Siemens Science Teacher Initiative Award. The award is jointly given by the Siemens Foundation and Fernbank Museum of Natural History.
The Siemens Foundation also recognizes 10 science teachers in New York. Hutchins and Isdell will formally receive their honors on May 6, during a presentation at Fernbank.
"We look for teachers who are engaging their students, not just teaching the curriculum because they have to," said Jennifer Harper-Taylor, vice president of the Siemens Foundation. "These teachers are able to manage the balance of keeping their students challenged and motivated."
Katrina Miller, the school system's coordinator of secondary science, nominated both Hutchins and Isdell for the award because of the work they do to help their students and other science teachers in the district understand the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) for their respective grade levels.
Hutchins, who received her first microscope when she was five, teaches sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade science and math to gifted students at Pointe South.
Miller cited Hutchins' position as the science department chairman at Pointe South; her work as a GPS coach; participation on the textbook steering committee and her duties as a Math-Science Partnership instructor as reasons for nominating the teacher for the Siemens award.
These days, Hutchins gets as excited about teaching her science lessons as her students are about learning some of the topics.
Her favorite topic to cover with sixth-graders is rocks and minerals. With the seventh-graders, her choice is biology. When she's teaching the eighth-graders, Hutchins looks forward to covering the physics-related topics because her students get to build miniature roller coasters.
Hutchins said when she is working with her students, she gets to see the future.
"You never know who is in your classroom," she said. "You could be teaching the next Einstein or Stephen Hawking ... You might be teaching a future president of the United States."
When Hutchins' sixth-grade students learned their teacher was getting an award for her classroom abilities, the 20-plus pupils in her class erupted into applause.
"She's a great teacher because she loves science and she helps us review for all of our tests," said student Kamiya Owens, 12. "I'm proud of her because she loves teaching. If I were her, I would want to be recognized for my hard work as a teacher."