Community Champion: Islands High teacher earns national honor

Community Champion: Islands High teacher earns national honor

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Even at a time when everything is different about education, good teaching is still good teaching.

Under ordinary circumstances, Megan Herbele would be getting back together with students this month and getting back out into the field for the scientific research program she oversees at Islands High School. But while working remotely for now, they will have to acknowledge the extraordinary results of the program that reflect on all of their studies.

“At first it was weird, because I couldn’t tell anyone except immediate family. It had to stay a secret,” Heberle said.

But now the secret is out. Herberle has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the highest national honor for K-12 teachers.

“I’ve already gotten emails from students. They saw it on Twitter and Facebook. I believe the last teacher in Savannah to do this was an elementary teacher in 1996,” Heerle said.

“You can obviously see how hard she works ... we’re excited. What a great honor this is for her and the entire Islands High School community,” Principal Derrick Butler said.

The science and research program is open to students from across the Savannah-Chatham school district and requires each one to conduct a research project over all four years of high school.

“I think at our research symposium, we had over 55 posters of different projects ... some students are working on mushrooms, some are working on fish or oysters. My expertise is in birds.”

But Heberle's expert guides the program and its students is why Gilliam Riley nominated her former co-worker in February of 2019.

“Each year, she upped the ante with what do we want kids to do? She is a scientist by nature, and the takeaway is she wants kids to be able to think like a scientist and do the work that scientists do. I also saw with in her regular classes that we teach at every school in the district, she was willing to put kids in the driver’s seat,” Riley said.

Soon, though, this WTOC Community Champion and nationally recognized teacher looks forward to putting students back into the research roles that they have enjoyed enough to have continued with it through the summer break.

“It’s exciting. That’s why we’re all here is to engage with these kids. That’s the best part of it.”

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