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WMS science teacher receives regional education award

Teaching wasn't always Nick George's career plan; in fact, he initially wanted to be a personal trainer.

But after taking several science classes, and tutoring students in the process, George eventually found his calling.

George has been teaching eighth grade science at Woodbury Middle School for the past four years. During that time he has been named the Secondary Educator of the Year by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce and has elevated his students to being ranked No. 1 on the state's standardized science test.

"I'm grateful because I know a lot of people who are not happy in their career paths," he said.

Now, George can add another accomplishment to his already impressive list.

George was named a regional honoree by the Metro ECSU and Synergy & Leadership Exchange WEM Foundation's 2012 Outstanding Educator Awards program in the Teacher Achievement category.

The award "recognizes exemplary teachers who support, inspire and assist students to attain greater learning, as evidenced by student achievement," according to a release from the group.

"It's so humbling because I consider myself a solid educator with a lot of growth room--I still have so far to go to be the teacher I really want to be," George said. "It's also validating because I put so much effort into my craft."

Synergy & Leadership Exchange (Synergy) is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering collaboration to advance the development of ethical citizens, providing educational resources, and celebrating achievement and best practices in Minnesota schools, businesses and communities.

As part of the award, George will receive $1,000 to put toward classroom supplies.

Including George, six teachers received regional honors and five educators were named as statewide honorees for the 2012 WEM Foundation Outstanding Educator Awards.

George was nominated for the award by his WMS Principal Kari Lopez, a former student and nine parents.

"I didn't take the award terribly seriously in that I didn't think I was actually going to win it," George said. "My reaction was pretty much, 'Wait ... what?'"

Making science fun

George graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse before taking his first teaching job seven years ago in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

He said his teaching formula includes finding ways to connect with his students, having a balanced curriculum to keep the class fresh and adding a dash of humor to the mix.

"It's really important to keep the lessons relevant, interesting with a good dose of rigor," he said.

George said he makes a point to include various teaching tools into his classes to keep his students interested, and not bore them with notes and PowerPoint presentations. George incorporates everything from videos to lab work to review games.

"I try to stay in tune with what students really need to have a really excellent education and experience," he said.

George said some of his favorite aspects of teaching include the flexibility and the students.

"How we teach is totally up to you and I love that," he said. "The interactions with the kids are amazing - their energy and their passion is awesome.

"Seeing kids excited about learning is the coolest thing."

Continuing to grow

George said he would love to be able to one day run his own charter school that caters exclusively to students from low income families.

"I want to get down and dirty with a group of students who just feel that there is no shot for them," he said.

If that career goal doesn't pan out, George said he could potentially see himself teaching high school science one day.

For now though, George said he's going to continue to bring his students to their highest potential.

"I take education pretty seriously," he said. "So, I want my students to leave my class with a huge volume of science knowledge."

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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