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Largo Middle School science teacher one of Florida's best

Leslie Pohley is the state's 2008 Outstanding Middle School Science Teacher, as named recently by the Florida Association of Science Teachers. "She is the science teacher every principal would love to have on staff,'' said Fred Ulrich, Largo Middle School principal. "She brings science alive through real-world applications, and above all, she cares about her students.'' Pohley, 53, was honored for her contributions to education and for being an inspiration to students and fellow teachers. We caught up with her in Room E-2 at Largo Middle School, the classroom where she has taught science for 30 years.

1Could you please quash, once and for all, the myth concerning girls vs. boys? Are either of the sexes better scientists? Both sexes are succeeding in science. Years ago, boys used to be ahead in science class. It had to do with the Leave It to Beaver mind-set. Society seemed to say that girls would become wives but a girl would never, God forbid, become a chemist. Those days are over.

2Are you an FCAT fan? There's no question that the FCAT is stressful. In science, for example, the eighth-grade portion focuses on what kids learn in our sixth-grade class. It's tough for them as eighth-graders to quickly recall what they've learned two years ago. On the other hand, because science is stressed at the elementary level on the FCAT, I'm reaping benefits of kids arriving in middle school with more knowledge.

3How can parents help science teachers? They can share with their children science in their world. For example, explain why there's a grease jar in the kitchen or work on a car engine in front of them. If you bring science to the child, the child will value it. Also, take trips to hands-on places like MOSI (the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa).

4Has it ever been a problem to teach science and keep religion out of it? No. I tell the students there are school questions and home questions. I've never had issues. I'm teaching science, and science is my viewpoint.

5How has Largo Middle School changed since you started? My students are on par with students in any big city, with their reading and researching. Thirty years ago, Largo was bordering on being a country town. I used to go see my students with their pigs and cows at the fairgrounds that used to be right up the street. Sadly, I miss the animal aspect of how it used to be, but the city is cosmopolitan and therefore the students are, too.

Piper Castillo is reachable at pcastillo@sptimes.com

Leslie Pohley

Age: 53

Education: Graduated from Clearwater High School in 1973. Holds two bachelor's degrees from the University of South Florida in Tampa (science education and biology).

Honors: 2003 Air Force Association Science Teacher of the Year; 2004 recipient of Southwest Florida Water Management District Outstanding Leadership in Environmental Education Award; National Science Foundation fellowship program at University of Georgia; $4,914 mini-grant through Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Largo Middle School science teacher one of Florida's best 11/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 24, 2008 8:41pm]

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