When Corine Sayler teaches biology students at Davis High School, she hopes they don't just learn the answer but begin to question why.
Sayler, who was named Utah's Biology Teacher of the Year last year, engenders curiosity for science with out-of-the-ordinary demonstrations and by teaching students to make practical application of what they learn."I hope students don't just remember me as a funny little science teacher at Davis High School," she said. "I hope they remember me as someone who didn't require just answers, but taught them how to begin to question why. I want to help them understand how to find the answers for themselves and apply that information to their lives."
Take, for example, a part of Sayler's instruction on ecology, population and environment. Students gather in front of the school and form the outlines of major continents. She begins passing out chocolate kisses. Students representing Western nations are asked to share 90 kisses, while other students representing Third World countries are asked to share two. Such activities help turn students on to science.
"My greatest reward is when they get a glimmer of excitement about a concept. That is unbelievably satisfying," said Sayler, who teaches general and advanced-placement biology courses.
Sayler, who originally started teaching home economics at Davis High 13 years ago, said it was her fascination with science that helped her move her experiments from the kitchen to the lab. She said her home economics training helps makes practical application of science easier.
"I think I approach science in a little more humanistic fashion rather than the sterile, clinical way that we have all thought about. I really enjoy it for that reason," she said, sitting in a classroom filled with fish tanks and a cage holding ring-necked doves.
She hopes the exhibits, purchased with her own money, are another way to capture students' interest. The ring-necked doves are used in genetics instruction, a student favorite. The subject is a result of sessions she has attended around the country after receiving four National Science Teacher Association scholarships. The same for bioethics.
"My challenge is providing students with the ability to compete on the national level. Because of larger class sizes (in Utah) and the educational funding situation, students are sometimes the ones who are affected the most," she said.
To help offset the effects of large numbers in the classroom, she often uses group exercises in which students who already understand concepts can help others. She also holds "brown-bagger" sessions after school to help give students more individualized instruction.
Sayler is one of the few women teachers in Davis who concentrate on science. She jokes about the adage that hangs on the front of her desk. It says women have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition as men.
"As a female teacher in the science area I would think that it is one of my opportunities as well as a real challenge to help young women and young men see their opportunities. There are positions and occupations available for both. I think the young girls need to realize they do have the potential, they are capable and there is nothing genetically that makes them different. It is there for them. I find it quite challenging personally," she said.
Sayler, who once attended a one-room school in Idaho, says she values her education. She's grateful to teachers and parents who fostered her desire to learn and work.
"Education has always been very important. As a matter of fact, my parents moved from northern Idaho primarily to provide their children with the opportunity to go to college if they desired to do so. They moved us closer to schools," said Sayler, who is now attending a graduate program at Utah State University.
She said that when she graduated from college she had no intention of teaching in public schools. After teaching at a pre-school with Camille Nielsen, now a science instructor at Boulton Elementary School, she changed her mind. Nielsen became a role model and brought an understanding about the influence teachers have on youth.
"I wanted to go back into education because I felt so strongly that students in schools today are our future. I guess I love it - I thoroughly enjoy what I do," Sayler said.