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posted: 2/12/2018 6:00 AM

Prospect Heights teacher went from boardroom to classroom

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  • MacArthur Middle School teacher Stephanie Ritter, third from left, works with students Kate Kaiser, Peyton Hausfeld and Esmeralda Balderas on a science project involving worms and compost at the Prospect Heights school.

      MacArthur Middle School teacher Stephanie Ritter, third from left, works with students Kate Kaiser, Peyton Hausfeld and Esmeralda Balderas on a science project involving worms and compost at the Prospect Heights school.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Stephanie Ritter, here with some of her sixth-grade students at MacArthur Middle School in Prospect Heights, worked in advertising for seven years before launching a second career as a teacher.

      Stephanie Ritter, here with some of her sixth-grade students at MacArthur Middle School in Prospect Heights, worked in advertising for seven years before launching a second career as a teacher.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Stephanie Ritter works with students at MacArthur Middle School in Prospect Heights on a science project dealing with worms and compost. Ritter incorporates at least one hands-on lab into each of her science chapters.

      Stephanie Ritter works with students at MacArthur Middle School in Prospect Heights on a science project dealing with worms and compost. Ritter incorporates at least one hands-on lab into each of her science chapters.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
Daily Herald report

Stephanie Ritter is in her 13th year at MacArthur Middle School in Prospect Heights, where she teaches sixth-graders science, language arts and social studies.

Teaching is a second career for Ritter, who spent seven years in advertising after earning an undergraduate degree in advertising and business. She went back to school to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from National Louis University before going to work at MacArthur.

A native of downstate Mount Vernon, Ritter now lives in Buffalo Grove, where she likes to spend free time with her family, reading, perennial gardening, cooking and playing with her dog.

Q: What drew you to teaching?

A: I decided to go into education as a second career since I enjoyed volunteering as a literacy tutor for adults and as a guest volunteer at a local middle school through my employer. The most unusual experience I have had was as a birthday party performer through Mad Science of Northern Illinois. Since I was a child, I have always enjoyed being outdoors and working with plants and animals.

Q: Teaching science would seem to have more opportunities for interactive learning than most school subjects. What are some of the ways you get your students involved hands-on in your classroom?

A: My sixth-grade science colleague and I always incorporate at least one hands-on lab into each chapter we teach, in addition to several other hands-on activities to build curiosity prior to the lab. We are fortunate to have a science laboratory just for sixth grade use, and have chosen a curriculum called Stemscopes that emphasizes inquiry-based learning as it follows the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards).

Q: Experimentation is a key part of scientific learning. What has been one of your students' favorite experiments, and what lessons did they learn from it?

A: Sixth-graders like any lab or activity where they can take something home, such as a fossil model or a grow-bug. We recently completed a lab where we burned various snack food in order to calculate which had more calories. They all were very excited to see food burn. All I can say is to keep Cheetos away from an open flame in your kitchen! I also encourage students to take advantage of any science opportunities in the community, such as telescope viewing at the library or Harper College Astronomy Day.

Q: Given the ever-evolving nature of science, how do you keep up with the latest developments in the subjects you teach and then incorporate new discoveries into your lessons?

A: I keep up with what is going on in science education as a member of the National Science Teachers Association. They publish a monthly magazine and bimonthly newspaper with ideas and news.

I also subscribe to National Geographic magazine, read the weekly New York Times science section, and subscribe to several YouTube channels that pertain to science. I am fortunate to have a school/district that allows and entrusts its teachers to incorporate ideas and make curricular decisions that we think are best.

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