Northwest NEWS

July 15, 2002


Scientist says keep teacher at WHS

While I haven't lived in the Northwest for three years now, every morning when I get to my office at University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., the first thing I do is check my email and read the Seattle Times online. I always look forward to checking in and making sure that I know what's going on at home. I grew up in Woodinville, graduated from Woodinville High School in 1995 and the University of Washington in 1999, and with most of my family in the Northwest, my roots still run deep. Until moving to Tucson in the summer of 1999 to start graduate school at the University of Arizona, I had spent my whole life in the greater Seattle area and still feel a civic duty to know what's going on at "home."
   So, as I sat in my office early on the morning of June 19th, checking in on the local events, reading about our beloved M's, I must admit I was absolutely appalled at what I found in the article I read about Dr. Larry Gulberg.
   As I mentioned, I am a graduate of Woodinville High School, and I had the pleasure and honor to be in Dr. Gulberg's class for two years. Now, seven years later, and with the acuity of hindsight, I can honestly say that Doc was one of three instructors to have a profound impact on my life and career in science, at either the high school of college level.
   Of course, there were other faculty members with whom I developed good personal relationships and that taught me a great deal about academics and life (Sully Hester, Kristy Gray, Linda Scheuffelle Frost at WHS), but only a select few made an impact in a way that affected the life and career path that I have taken. Dr. Gulberg had a significant influence on me in both what I do in the laboratory, as well as how I approach my teaching responsibilities.
   I always look back at the enthusiasm, curiosity and passion that Doc displayed while teaching science to his students. I know how incredibly effective that teaching style was for not only myself, but all the students in his classroom, the majority of whom had no previous interest or aptitude for science.
   Now, when I'm giving lectures and teaching labs to undergraduate, garduate and medical students, I often wish that I could imitate that impish grin and chuckle that Doc would display every time he showed us one of his "spear-ments" because I know it would draw my students in the way it draws me in.
   Because of the effect he had on me, I felt an obligation to send a letter of support for this wonderful person and teacher. The fact that Woodinville High School has a teacher of Dr. Gulberg's education level and caliber is a credit to the school district and the school, but the loss of a teacher with Doc's credentials and ability would be an equally black mark on the Northshore School District and Woodinville High School.
   Were I a parent at Woodinville High School, I would be outraged to learn that we weren't doing everything possible to keep this teacher at our school, and in fact may be pushing him away. I would be incensed to know that we were losing the teacher who, at the urging of his Accelerated Chemistry students brought AP classes, and the college credits earned for those students, to WHS. The loss of someone who has brought so much to WHS in the way of academics and opportunity should be unacceptable to those parents with children at WHS.
   Just a final thought - When I started my PhD program I went to a workshop with a number of other doctoral students and we were all asked a question about who first influenced us in science and/or medicine. When it was my turn, I told a few stories of my high school chemistry teacher who had this exploding paint can, pop bottle, and would light methane bubbles with the lights out. When I told my story, almost everyone there nodded their heads in agreement as they identified with what I was saying. The room was full of MDs, PhDs, medical students, and graduate students and while we all came from different disciplines, one thing that we had in common was that almost everyone in the room had a story about a science teacher who took experiments to another level and, in doing so, got them completely hooked on the process of scientific discovery.
   Without educators who are willing to teach the way that Dr. Gulberg does, many of the brightest minds in the biomedical reseach world may never have chosen their respective fields.
   Wouldn't it be a shame if, by taking a man like Dr. Gulberg out of his classroom, you failed to reach that one student who might develop a cure for cancer, discover the key to efficient space travel, unlock the brain chemistry behind schizophrenia or grow the first artificial heart in the lab? I think it would be more than a shame.
   Benjamin Shephard, Doctoral Candidate, University of Arizona
   Physiological Sciences & Biomedical Engineering Applied Cardiovascular Research Laboratory