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Woodbury teacher receives thanks

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Many at East Ridge High School might consider science teacher Nancy Berg to have a larger-than-life personality.

Last week Berg received a check just as large, as part of Farmers Insurance's Thank America's Teachers initiative.

"You can just see the passion that she has," said Dustin Vogelsang, local Farmers Insurance agency owner.

Vogelsang, and other representatives from Farmers Insurance, presented Berg with a $2,500 check, on April 12, to help fund East Ridge's biomedical sciences program, which is part of the Project Lead the Way curriculum.

"We can always use additional funding," said Berg, who teaches the course, "so this is very cool for us."

Thanking teachers

Launched in 2015, the Thank America's Teachers program enables Americans everywhere to say thank you to teachers who made an impact on their lives.

Teachers are nominated by students or school personnel through the program, and then votes are cast for which teachers should receive the grant.

Berg was nominated by East Ridge principal Jim Smokrovich.

"Schools will not be successful unless you have the passion behind the teachers," he said, "and Nancy has the vision and passion."

Nationally 180 teachers were nominated in March and the top 60 teachers received the $2,500 grant.

Berg, who lives in Woodbury, received the 15th-most votes.

"It's a good feeling that corporate America has appreciation for what we're doing here," Berg said. "In reality, they would not have the positions they have without a teacher."

Two more rounds of grants will be given out to teachers. Additionally, Dream Big Teacher Challenge grants of $100,000 will be awarded to six of the teachers previously awarded.

"That would be great because (Project Lead the Way) is a very expensive program to run," Smokrovich said. "We could hone in and try and come up with something innovative."

Innovative curriculum

Berg has been teaching since 1984, and in 2011 she helped spearhead East Ridge's biomedical sciences program.

The biomedical sciences program has students exploring concepts of human medicine, introducing them to bioinformatics; examining the processes, structures and interactions of the human body; studying prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases; and investigating innovative and designing innovative solutions.

"I had to step back and not be teacher centered, but be student centered," Berg said. "The students are in charge of their own success."

"The students' learning is tied into real life," Smokrovich said.

Berg said her $2,500 grant will enable her to purchase new equipment for the biomedical sciences classes, such as: software or models "that provides the inspiration for the new generation of innovators; the practical skills and hands-on experience that makes student knowledge count in the real world; and the basis for the next generation of leadership in science and technology," according to a press release from Farmer's Insurance.

Berg will next work with district officials to draft the grant proposal in hopes of receiving the $100,000 grand prize.

"Education is the key to happiness," she said. "What you learn will determine how successful you are."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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