Katie Manahan uses the garden for hands-on work with environmental science freshmen at Martin County High School in Stuart. The garden is very popular with students who can see it from the classroom. GREG GARDNER PHOTO
BY GREG GARDNER
Katie Manahan’s environmental science students are growing along with the plants just outside her Martin County High School classroom in Stuart.
“We are all learning how to garden,” says Manahan, who last year taught sophomore and Advanced Placement freshman biology in her first teaching position. A week-and-half before her second school year, she learned her new assignment would be teaching seven freshmen environmental science classes as part of a pilot project to prepare students for high school biology.
“I was panicked at first, but started doing research. I struggled at the first of the year, but I’m learning Spanish and they are learning English. I have more ESL (English as second language) students than any other science teacher,” says Manahan. “It’s going well. I like to watch my students grow.”
Her classes are not about teaching in Spanish, but learning science in English. Manahan spells out the lessons in both English and Spanish side by side on the blackboard so more than half of her 172 students can translate from Spanish to English. She also receives help from ESL translators, who also teach the same students in regular ESL classes. “I was new,” Manahan says laughingly.
Her classes are hands-on with experiments. All of her students love to go out and work in the garden, which sits in plain view of the classroom in a courtyard, including some shade. “I let the fidgety ones tend to the garden,” Manahan says. Other teachers contributed materials and seeds for the garden. Manahan’s students tend to the sunflowers, star fruit, passion fruit, lemon, parsley, dill, milkweed and aloe vera plants.
“When one butterfly didn’t live, they realized the circle of life lesson,” says Manahan. She often uses events in the news to teach science. “The students get excited over real-life situations,” Manahan says, “They are outraged about the Indian River Lagoon (pollution) situation. A lot of them fish, boat, kayak and paddleboard. They want to know what they can do to help. They are going to write letters.”
Science projects are submitted on poster board or in PowerPoint. One student did a report on a particular bird species and submitted a beautiful hand-drawing as an illustration. “Some of my students are not strong readers and writers, but I have seen their progress since the beginning of the year,” Manahan says.
Manahan has been nominated for Indian River Magazine Outstanding Treasure Coast Teacher by the parent of one of her students.
“Ms. Manahan is a caring teacher who always ensures that the students are in their best position for success,” William Piasta wrote in his recommendation. “My daughter constantly says how much Ms. Manahan cares about her well-being. She has helped countless children and will be a life-changing teacher.”
School: Martin County High School, Stuart
Family: Boyfriend, Matt
Background: Born, raised and educated in northeast Pennsylvania. B.S. in biology from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA; education degree, King’s College
How I got into teaching: “I always loved my science classes and was a dance teacher for five years. I liked teaching and decided to go back to school and be a science teacher.”
What I like best about teaching: “It’s my students. I have so many different kinds of kids. There is never a dull moment.”
Something my students probably don’t know about me: “I am an avid kayaker and so is my dog, Meatball.”