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Darien Teacher Helps Grow Love of Bio

Darien High biology teacher Susan Ruegger was hoping school would be held Wednesday. "I don't want it to snow at all," she said. "I'd rather be here at the high school with the kids."

The students can feel Ruegger's devotion for biology. Cecilia Lee, one of her students, said, "It seems like she really loves the subject, and that makes us excited."

Ruegger said she intended to be a researcher before switching to teaching. "I decided I couldn't stare at test tubes for the rest of my life. It's so boring," she said. "I much more enjoy sharing my passion with others, so I decided to become a teacher."

She mixes her lectures with hands-on experiments that help the students gain a deeper understanding of biology and biochemistry and the role they play. Projects include breeding fruit flies and determining their genetic heritage as well as experiments in which the students extract their own DNA from fingerprints. "Next, they'll be transferring a gene normally found in jellyfish into bacteria," she said.

Ruegger also makes heavy use of technology. The high school has a microscopy lab with microscopes hooked up to a central computer so students can see what their classmates are doing. The first to accomplish a task will often have their results posted on the computer so the others can see what they have done and how they did it. "It's helped dramatically with the way kids learn the material," she said. "The students often compete to be the first one to get their results posted."

Ruegger said she is most passionate about the small sustainable farm that she and the students planted on campus, where they grow melons, carrots and grapes. "The students were interested in where their food comes from, so I said, 'Let's find out.'" In two years, the project has grown from eight girls to a team of more than 40 students, who cultivate the garden in the summer. "Some of the herbs we grow have been used in the school cafeteria," she said.

Do you know any Darien teachers who convey their love of learning or a subject matter to their students? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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