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Harper Woods

April 14, 2014

Science teacher retires to take on a new role in education

By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer

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Harper Woods Middle School teacher June Teisan is retiring to take on a new role in Washington, D.C. Above, she stands with Harper Woods Middle School students a couple of years ago near a waterway where they conducted research.

HARPER WOODS — Middle School science teacher June Teisan is a bit emotional about leaving her Harper Woods classroom behind, but she feels that she’s being pulled in a new direction, one where she will continue to work on the side of students and education in this country.

Teisan will retire at the end of this school year and pack up her science classroom, but she’s headed to Washington, D.C., after being chosen for an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program Award.

“Ms. Teisan has been an exceptional teacher throughout her career in Harper Woods Schools,” Harper Woods Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said in an email. “She has been an educational innovator, a mentor to colleagues and to those pursuing careers in teaching, and a strong voice in the area of educational policy. We look forward to her continued support of Harper Woods Schools and public education in Michigan as she transitions to her new role as an Einstein Fellow.”

Principal Tonya Norwood said that she remembers walking into Teisan’s classroom for the first time earlier in the school year. She said that it felt like she was walking into a forest, because it was so beautiful.

Teisan brings science into her classroom with hands-on experiences and living animals in different parts of the room.

“I know that she is really going to miss what she does in the classroom,” Norwood said.

Through the fellowship, Teisan will spend 11 months working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Education. The Triangle Coalition created a news release of the fourteen science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers who were chosen as Einstein Fellows across the nation to serve at various federal agencies.

Teisan was the only teacher from Michigan chosen.

After 27 years in the district, she said that the decision to leave Harper Woods wasn’t easy, but she felt God was sending her a message when she received not just the one offer, but three job offers in one day.

“God didn’t just open a door; he threw open a garage-sized door,” she said.

“It’s hard to move on. It’s hard to move away,” she said. “Harper Woods has been a great home for so many years.”

Teisan applied late last year. She was chosen as a finalist and flew to Washington, D.C., for a round of interviews. Then, she found out that she was chosen for different opportunities. Her plans are to work to continue to open the door to STEM fields for those who are underrepresented in those fields, like women and minorities. With her experience, she is able to focus on younger students  more so than those who are already getting that attention.

While in the nation’s capital, she has plans to visit decision-makers in education in the Legislature and other departments to try to talk about what she considers too much reliance on testing.

She said a year’s worth of learning cannot be assessed in one test.

“Kids are not a number,” Teisan said.

When she leaves Harper Woods, she said she’ll miss the staff, students and families, who have all been supportive. She’ll miss being a science teacher, which she calls a job where she gets “the most toys that you get to play with, with the kids.”

“It will be a big change,” she said.

When talking about that big change and leaving her post in Harper Woods, Teisan wiped away tears.

Working with the kids is going to be something she misses every day, she said. It’s a job where, she said, you want “to show them that there’s a smiling face at the door that you can count on.”

“There’s a dynamic when a classroom is running at optimal levels, when kids are focused on what they’re doing … when you have those ‘aha’ moments,” she said.

“They’re just so full of promise and hope and talent,” Teisan said of the students.

Yet, she doesn’t feel like she’s leaving them behind.

“I’m bringing them with me when I go to represent them in D.C.,” Teisan said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer April Lehmbeck at alehmbeck@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1043.