Friday, May 20, 2011
High school science teacher receives national award
A Lexington teacher who took a roundabout path to the classroom has been honored nationally for his efforts to better science education in Lexington.
Bryan Station High School’s Carlos Verdecchia was named All-American Teacher of the Year by the National Math and Science Initiative, a Dallas-based education advocacy group. He will be recognized in Washington, D.C., Wednesday and Thursday.
The Advanced Placement biology teacher is one of 23 educators recognized nationally for his work improving AP science course attendance and end-of-the-year testing scores.
“I was a little shocked,” Verdecchia, said. “I got nominated by another teacher. I never do anything like this.”
John Barnes, associate principal at Bryan Station, said the school’s staff was thrilled that Verdecchia received the award.
“I’ve known Carlos for six years as a teacher, and he’s grown every year,” Barnes said.
The 11-year veteran of Bryan Station’s science department moved to the United States from Argentina when he was 16 to study, but his path to teaching wasn’t clear yet. After finishing high school, he attended Berea College where he received a bachelor’s in biology, and at the time he said he considered going into medicine.
He continued his post-graduate education at the University of Kentucky where he earned a master’s in food science and continued working towards his doctorate. A year into the program, he was offered a job as a private food inspector and spent three years traveling domestically and abroad before returning to complete his dissertation.
But something changed while he worked and traveled, and when he returned to Lexington to finish his thesis research, he also enrolled in UK’s masters of education program. A year later, he completed both and started searching for his first teaching job at 30 years old.
“I think I made the right choice,” he said.
He found his first full-time position at Bryan Station High School where he has worn many hats over the years as a biology, physics and chemistry teacher, and soccer coach, depending on the staff roster at the school. He also teaches two science classes in Spanish for the school’s Spanish immersion program.
“I taught a little bit of everything,” he said with a laugh.
But he’s always enjoyed teaching biology the most, and the look on his students’ faces when they begin to understand a difficult subject is what keeps him teaching.
“It was my first job,” he said. “And I haven’t gone anywhere.”
Story and photo by Ben Cannon