Dana Frank leads the Science Olympiad at Community House Middle and was asked by Principal Jamie Brooks to talk about it on the school's morning announcements. "We're headed to state, so I thought I would get on there, talk about those students and be done," said Frank.
Brooks had other plans, however. As Frank was talking, she noticed balloons out of the corner of her eye and realized she'd been named Teacher of the Year for the South Learning Community. "Being honored by my peers is quite humbling," she said. "The thing I love about working with the other teachers here is that we ask each other for help and encourage one another to do better. I hope this honor means that I am open and helpful to my team."
Frank joined CMS seven years ago as an eighth-grade science teacher. She previously taught in Houston and Augusta, Ga. When her husband's job at Electrolux moved to Charlotte, she followed and took the position at Community House.
A native of Chicago, Frank grew up with a strong love of science. Her grandparents had a cabin in West Yellowstone. She spent her childhood collecting rocks and bugs, fishing and learning about wildlife. While many members of her family were teachers, she didn't consider teaching an option. "I didn't find education, education found me," she said.
In Houston, she started substitute teaching and realized she loved, especially middle school. During a long-term assignment, her department chair approached her about earning her teaching certification and she eagerly pursued it. "It was something I never considered doing," said Frank. "It's never where I thought I would be. But it's where I should be."
Brooks said Frank is an irreplaceable teacher. "She doesn't have time or energy for the negativity that grabs hold of some, as she is too focused on the success of her students," she said. "She is constantly working on and tweaking rigorous, engaging lessons that align to standards and enhance literacy."
Frank said working with students who have challenges or don't consider themselves to be good at science is one of the best parts of her job. "My motto is, 'Everyone is a scientist,'" she said. "When a student comes in and says, 'I hate science,' I say, 'Great, we're going to change that.'"
At her school in Augusta, she worked with an autistic student who was moved from a special-needs class to her room. "We had to tape off a special area for his desk," said Frank. "As long as he had his special area he was fine. By the end of the year, he would say, 'I am great at science! I am so great at science!'"
Her classes focuses on hands-on activities and include real world scenarios. "They have to see a connection between what they learn in the classroom and the world they live in. My eighth-graders could have predicted the water crisis in Flint, Michigan," said Frank. "The city wasn't properly testing the water. Our students spend several weeks evaluating the water in our creek and our tap water."
Frank passed along her love of science to her daughter, Heidi, who works in advertising in New York City. "We are always emailing each other back and forth with links to science stories and news that we see every day," she said. "She is a continual learner and my husband and I are very proud of that."
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