TAMPA — A volcanologist, a farmer, a White House staffer and a clown are among more than a thousand speakers headed back to school today for the Great American Teach-In.
The annual event gets bigger and more interesting each year, said Linda Cobbe, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough schools.
"It's important that students are exposed to different professions and topics they might not have heard about, like what is a snake handler,'' she said. "Or maybe they've never actually met an accountant."
Cobbe said this year's teach-in is more than a career day. Topics range from possible jobs to what life is like inside a detention facility. Speakers are bringing props. One guest is a two-legged dog. There's even a session on hand washing.
The guest list is diverse. A dental hygienist and a cake decorator are scheduled to speak at Buckhorn Elementary School, both before lunch. Collins Elementary welcomes a representative from the Homeland Security Department. Plant High has a plastic surgeon, a portrait artist and a hurricane hunter.
Speakers are coming from throughout the United States, including the nation's capital. Shellie Pfohl, director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, will appear at Witter Elementary School in Tampa.
"When the children heard someone involved with the president was coming here, they were very excited," said Lynda Correia, a physical education teacher. "It is a privilege."
Pfohl is visiting Witter because of its active gaming room, which is open daily for students and staffers to use. The room features interactive games that mix technology and exercise. Pfohl will take part in a demonstration.
"We don't usually have people come from the White House," Cobbe said. "It's one of the highlights this year."
A real estate agent, a photographer and a representative from Big Cat Rescue also are on Witter's roster.
All Hillsborough schools have at least one scheduled speaker. Some have them back to back throughout the day. Hundreds of parent and student volunteers will pass out name tags and usher visitors through school halls.
Cobbe said she hopes the day will inspire students to think outside the box.
"They may discover something different that really interests them," she said. "I would be surprised if lifelong dreams hadn't been inspired at the teach-in."
Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 661-2439 or [email protected]