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Featured Teacher: Belinda Guzman

Belinda Guzman

Belinda Guzman teaches Science at Vanguard Rembrandt Secondary, a charter school for the fine arts in Pharr, Texas. She has been in education for 26 years and coaches the school’s Robotics Program, Navy Sea Perch Challenge, FIRST Lego League, and FIRST Tech Challenge teams. Guzman also serves as a member of the school’s site decision-making committee, mentors the district’s fifth grade science teachers and robotic coaches, and is the sponsor for the district’s South Texas College Architectural & Engineering Design Technology Program. She earned a master's degree in reading from the University of Texas – Pan American.

Share a lighthearted story about yourself.

During the second week of school, a parent stopped me and asked if I was Mrs. Guzman. At first glance, she appeared to be irate so I was a little hesitant to answer. When I said I was, she told me that since she had missed the “Meet the Teacher Night,” she had urgently wanted to meet me. Every afternoon when her son got home all he did was dance around singing, “I love my teacher, I love my teacher,” which seemed out of character. After asking their son which teacher he was talking about, he said “Mrs. Guzman.” She had been taken aback to know that someone had sparked an interest in her son and she wanted to let me know and thank me. That year, he excelled and joined my robotics team and has been a loyal member ever since.

What do you do to remain current and bring the latest science into the classroom?

I stay involved in the current science trends and keep my memberships active. I am a member of AAAS, the National Science Teacher Association, Texas Project Learning Tree, and Wildlife Association. With the support of our superintendent, I continue to grow and participate in the most current STEAM opportunities, including the FIRST World Competition in Houston, Texas. I also participated in the University of Texas Scratch Coding Cohort and the Computer Science Summit. Just recently, our school was awarded a $10.6 million GEAR UP Grant, which provides current STEAM opportunities for our students as they prepare for college. This award will educate our parents and focus our instruction with the latest science so that we can prepare our students with the character, resilience, and expertise to lead our future.

Do you have a science demo that students find particularly compelling? What makes it so interesting for them?

When teaching Newton’s Third Law of Motion, I show them the “Ring Catch Chain Trick.” In this demo, I slide a ring over a chain necklace and when I release the ring it flips and catches unto the chain. This happens because when the ring twists into and hits the chain, the impact transfers momentum to the end of the chain, which rises up and over the ring, locking it in place. It’s interesting to the students because it appears to be magical. I build on that interest and award each student a ring and chain at the end of the year for their hard work and call it the “Ring of Honor.” The desire to have one inspires them to try harder and excel academically. So, I can truly say it is “magical!”

What resources do you use in the classroom that get students excited?

I like to show video clips that my students can relate to and apply their learning. One clip that really excites them is the Ice Age: Continental Drift trailer. In this video, they can apply the following concepts: gravity (as the character falls down the crack); friction as he tries to hold onto the wall; the layers of the earth (as he continues to fall to the core); Pangaea (as the earth cracks while he is trying to catch the acorn); identification of the continents as they begin to drift (with their identifying music); potential and kinetic energy (as his tail wraps around the core and then is released up into the sky); and density (as the ice floats during his landing). What makes it most compelling is that even though they had already seen the video, they now see it with a different purpose and point of view that provides a new and meaningful experience.

Read a book you are dying to tell your peers about? Tell us why you love it.

In the sense that we are all young, this is a book for young readers, an easy read, but a great book to share: The Chinese Mirror. Written by Mirra Ginsburg and adapted from a Korean folktale, this warm tale is about a young peasant who brings his family a mirror from China. The mirror creates curiosity, chaos, and confusion within the family as they look in it and fail to recognize themselves. I love this story because it is a must read for all ages. It is humorous and entertaining with magnificent and striking water color oriental illustrations. Furthermore, I love it because it lends itself for teaching inference and the concept of reflection.

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Chris Spitzer

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