CKJH teacher brings science to life

"Eric Samson loves to use scientific demonstrations as teaching tools. Water balloon catapults and liquid nitrogen are favorites with his ninth-grade physical science students. I can't think of a day that goes by that there isn't something exciting going on in his room, said Cindy Taylor, an earth science and math teacher whose room is next to Samson's. It's like a never-ending entertainment show, but the kids are learning.Samson's talent for getting kids hooked on science has earned him the Rotary Club Teacher of the Year award. He was nominated by a former student, Joshua Sykes.Samson is the kind of teacher who stays with kids long after they have left Central Kitsap Junior High. Betsy Gray, a Central Kitsap High School valedictorian who received a NASA grant to cover her tuition to study engineering at the University of Washington, said Samson was the teacher who first got her interested in science.A lot of kids you get are way smarter than you are, and you know they are going to go on to do great things. I like to be able to play a part if their lives, Samson said.Bridget O'Malley, a CKJH life sciences teacher, said students in Samson's class want to sit in the front row, and kids in the back sit on desks so they can see better.He gets the kids because he is a fantastic storyteller. He is also a happy person and the kids like to be around him, O'Malley said. He gets a lot of laughs in his class, but he is also academically challenging.Samson said he enjoys the atmosphere at CKJH - the lab facilities are roomy and the science department has a decent budget for materials. It would take a crowbar to get me out of here, he said.He also has cultivated a good relationship with his colleagues. He is head of the science department, and has played a big role in keeping morale high, O'Malley said. He raises the bar for the educators with whom he works. I think Eric is the teacher we all wish we could be. He is an inspiration to the kids and he loves teaching them, Taylor said.Samson got his undergraduate degree in geology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and he went on to earn his master's degree in science education.While his education would logically lead him to teach earth sciences, he prefers physical science.(Physical science) lends itself to showmanship and you introduce kids to ideas that are mind-rattling, Samson said. It's great to see the looks on the kids' faces when they learn some of the weird things about nature.Motivating kids to want to learn and creating curriculum that will suit students with a variety of abilities are his biggest challenges, he said. The students he enjoys most aren't necessarily those who are most academicly advanced, he said, but those who who are introspective and mull concepts until they understand them.He says he thinks the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) is an unfair representation of students' skills, and that the test gives a false impression of a crisis in education.I feel that if there is a crisis in education, it is a misperception on the part of the public that education isn't working. I just don't see that kids aren't doing as well as they were (in the past), Samson said.While teachers play a crucial role in education, Samson stressed that parents are even more important in shaping their children's attitudes and work ethic.When you have a student you admire and you meet their parents, you understand why they are such an amazing student, said Samson, a father of two. "

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