NAME: Cara Pekarcik
AGE: 44 Search Assets
HOMETOWN: Herminie, Pennsylvania
IN THE NEWS: Pekarcik is one of 20 educators from across the country chosen for the PBS Digital Innovator All-Star Program.
NOW YOU KNOW: Pekarcik traveled to Antarctica with PolarTREC, a foundation that runs expeditions for scientists and educators.
CHALLENGE STORY: For the last 16 years, North Quincy High School teacher Cara Pekarcik has been working towards a goal: to demystify science for her students and show that the sometimes daunting subject can be a fun and relevant class, hobby or future career.
“I do not expect all of my students to want to be scientists when they leave, but I want them to know science is important to the world all around us, and it doesn’t have to be scary,” she said.
Her goal of making her classes accessible – she teaches biology and zoology – means she tries to bring videos, online games, slideshows and other interactive digital media into the classroom, an effort she says goes a long way in making the studies engaging for high school students.
“Any opportunity that I can use from online or any digital opportunity, I really try to jump on it,” Pekarcik said. “Applying these lessons to real life is really key.”
The 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year’s efforts were noted by local broadcasting network GBH and its parent company, and she was chosen as one of 20 educators nationwide to participate in the PBS Digital Innovator All-Star Program.
Through the programme, she’ll work with 19 other teachers across age level, discipline and state lines to develop educational materials to be used by digital-first educators such as herself. In small and large groups, the members will work on making lessons more interesting and engaging using technology.
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“I’m always humbled when things like this happen and it makes me think, ‘Am I a digital innovator?’ ” she said with a laugh. “I’m very grateful to be chosen and to be able to work with so many other educators from around the country and learn about their experiences, which isn’t something we always get to do.”
Pekarcik said she specifically hopes to work on taking something like an interview, document or other primary source and develop curriculum and lesson plans that make it accessible for different grade levels and learning styles. She said she uses a lot of PBS learning media in her classroom as is, and that using such tools “really makes it real for students.”
“It really is amazing to be given opportunities to grow as a professional,” she said. “That’s always something I’m grateful for and I’m excited to dive in.”
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In a news release announcing her selection, GBH said Pekarcik – who has served as an assistant volleyball coach, a National Honor Society adviser and a member of the school’s culture and climate committee – is exactly the kind of educator the program looks for. She previously served as a GBH educational ambassador.
“Cara has consistently excelled in teaching, bringing innovative ideas to her work in the classroom and inspiring her students to reach beyond what is expected,” Seeta Pai, executive director of education at GBH, said in a statement.
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Reach Mary Whitfill at [email protected]