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Teacher's overboard

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Posted: Sunday, September 21, 2008 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:07 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Iuliana Petre

Killeen Daily Herald

If every student should set their own goals and reach for them, then so should every teacher.

That's what Shoemaker High School teachers Ximena Barbosa and Patricia Fasano believe.

But, that is more than the women's shared philosophy; that is what they practice, too.

This summer, Barbosa and Fasano traveled to Chile and Italy, respectively, where one lectured on bio-technology and the other taught psychology at the university level.

And they brought back with them new teaching methods that, when applied in their classrooms, will expand their students' horizons.

Ximena Barbosa

Chilean-born Barbosa is a biochemical engineer who teaches pre-advanced placement and advanced placement chemistry classes at Shoemaker High, where she has been an educator for seven years.

But, before she became a teacher, she was a bio-chemical engineering student in Chile for seven years, which is the average length of time it takes to complete all of the requirements toward the degree, "if you don't have to repeat anything," Barbosa said.

After graduation, Barbosa worked as a university-level instructor for about two years teaching thermodynamics and vocational microbiology.

She received a research scholarship and began working toward a doctorate degree from a university in Germany. Although she never completed the requirements toward a Ph.D., she met her husband – a U.S. Army soldier – while in Germany.

In 1993, when Barbosa first came to the U.S., she worked at several colleges assisting professors and doing research in the lab. She later completed the certification requirements to teach at the high school level.

About two years ago, Barbosa became a member of the American Chemical Society – the world's largest scientific society – and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

Through these organizations Barbosa broadened her personal horizons as a bio-chemist.

Two summers ago, during a World Chemical Congress trip to Chile, sponsored by the ACS, Barbosa grew interested in green chemistry.

Green chemistry, Barbosa said, "deals with different methods of obtaining chemicals and materials that are the least harmful to the environment."

Paint, for example, is made with harsh solvents, Barbosa said, adding that there are some options for making paint without using these solvents.

Scientists in the European nations are very concerned with preserving the environment.

"It's an important issue," Barbosa said, adding "I worry about the environment."

And last year she introduced green chemistry to her classrooms.

"The students in general are extremely interested (in green chemistry). They want to defend our planet," Barbosa said.

By bringing to Shoemaker the experience she's gathered from meeting scientists from around the world, Barbosa better developed the curriculum and broadened her students' horizons.

"Thanks to my experience overseas, we have been able to start a new program at Shoemaker – the biotechnical engineering program, which is part of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program," Barbosa said.

Patricia Fasano

Fasano is a pre-advanced placement and advanced placement Spanish teacher, and is the only educator in the Killeen Independent School District to teach classes in advanced placement Spanish literature.

A teacher of 6? years, Fasano has been teaching at Shoemaker for four years, but has not always worked in the field of education.

Fasano's father was an architect who received a contract to work in Argentina, where she was born. But, after his death about the time of Fasano's 13th birthday, her mother relocated back to Italy to be closer to the rest of their family.

Fasano graduated with a Ph.D. in social work from an Italian university affiliated with the Vatican University in Rome.

After she left Italy for the U.S., Fasano enlisted in the U.S. Army. But, because of her education level, she was later commissioned an officer and worked as a social worker.

She served in the Army, mostly in Germany, for a total of six years, helping families dealing with child and spouse abuse. While in Germany, Fasano met her husband, also an officer in the U.S. Army.

But, over the years, Fasano kept in contact with her former Italian professors, who offered her an opportunity to teach psychology courses during summer sessions.

So, for six weeks this past summer, Fasano flew to Italy where she taught classes at the university level.

"I adored it," Fasano said, adding that the experience confirmed the importance of an international education.

"Kids need an authentic experience with the world so they can learn about and respect other peoples' cultures," Fasano said.

Fasano brought back with her more than a recognition that students need to experience other ways of life. She brought back teaching methods, which she plans to apply in her classrooms.

In Italy, students spend more classroom time interacting with their peers, sharing ideas and working together to develop resolutions. Fasano concluded that her role as an educator is not just to lecture but to "facilitate the subject matter and allow the students to learn from each other in groups."

The next go around

Barbosa and Fasano both plan to continue teaching abroad.

For Barbosa, her next overseas trip will take place over Spring Break when she will return to Chile to lecture at two universities. And this summer, she will travel to Glasgow for the next World Chemical Congress meeting.

Fasano will return to Italy over the summer to again teach psychology courses at the university.

The women agree that all teachers should have these types of goals – to reach out and accomplish something different – from which they can bring something to their classrooms.

"It should be every teacher's goal to reach her goal and help the students find their goals," Barbosa said.

"We need competent teachers," Fasano said. "When you reach your goal, it's a dream come true."

Contact Iuliana Petre at ipetre@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7469.

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