Holt biology teacher wins award, inspires students

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Peterson, skeleton

Peterson uses hands-on learning in her classroom.

By Sally Zimmerman
Holt Journal staff writer

The National Outstanding Biology Teacher Award is given to one teacher from each state that exhibits characteristics of an experienced, inspiring educator in the biology field. In 2012, the award was given to Heather Peterson of Holt, Mich.

Peterson is a biology teacher at Holt Senior High School who uses unique teaching methods to engage her students and enhance learning. Peterson does not use a textbook. Instead, she tries to put a fun twist on learning by making classes more hands-on.

“(My students’) questions drive the curriculum,” Peterson said.

Peterson has taught biology since 1992 and has also been the Science Olympiad coach at the high school for that long. Many of her students have joined the Science Olympiad team because of Peterson’s enthusiastic approach to teaching.

Chloe Lewis is one student who has Peterson as both a teacher and a coach.

“She’s the one that told me to join Science Olympiad,” Lewis said. “She’s definitely a person I could talk to.”

The Science Olympiad activities resemble the hands-on learning tactics Peterson uses in her classroom.

Peterson, Bennick, Science Olympiad, classroom

Peterson and Bennick discuss a project during a Science Olympiad meeting.

“She really makes learning more interactive,” said Eric Bennick, another student on the Science Olympiad team. “There’s no routine, it’s more upbeat.”

Both Lewis and Bennick said they want to go into careers in science, having been inspired by Peterson.

In addition to winning the National Outstanding Biology Teacher Award last year, Peterson and another teacher at Holt Senior High School, Jessica Cotter, won a $5,000 grant to begin a program called Teachers Learning Together. Teachers at the high school observe each other and use engagement strategies learned at a conference to provide feedback on how to improve their teaching.

“It’s all about student engagement,” Peterson said.

Peterson has many accomplishments, both with her teaching and coaching. Her passion for helping people has driven her success. She says her achievements are really those of the whole science department working together.

Her two pieces of advice for any aspiring teachers are, “Always keep an open mind” and “Students come first.”

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