With its sunken tires, rusty bicycles, and the occasional mattress, Willow Pond used to look more like a flooded Superfund site than a home for freshwater fish. But to Walden alumna and current student Rebecca McLelland-Crawley, it looked like an opportunity.
"Willow Pond had the potential to be something beautiful," said Rebecca, who teaches at Perth Amboy High School in Perth Amboy, N.J. She envisioned the pond as a perfect way to connect classroom science to her students' lives.
Her science students worked on cleaning up the pond, removing hundreds of pounds of junk every month, testing water quality, and logging data. "They have become the de facto Willow Pond experts," Rebecca said.
Rebecca likes to challenge herself as much as she challenges her students. She's in Walden's EdD program with a specialization in Teacher Leadership because she wants to teach college courses in science education while remaining a full-time high school teacher.
"A lot of professors I had in my undergraduate courses didn't have much experience teaching in the classroom," she said, adding that maybe that's why those instructors didn't teach one of the most important things—how to get students interested in science in the first place.
Rebecca's ability to engage students helped make her the 2005 Phi Delta Kappa/Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year for New Jersey. The grant she received went toward pond cleanup efforts; she also established scholarships for graduating seniors who helped clean the pond.
"As a Walden student, I've become more aware of what it means to make a difference in the world," Rebecca said. "If I can get kids excited about saving a 13-acre pond, maybe they'll be nicer to the rest of the planet."
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