Megan Brousseau '08
Megan Brousseau '08
Megan Brousseau '08 recently received Teach for America's Sue Lehmann award for excellence in teaching high school science. Brousseau teaches 9th grade biology at the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics in New York City.

Teach For America is the national corps of top recent college graduates of all academic majors who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity. The Sue Lehmann Award for Excellence in Teaching, highlights exemplary teachers who are able to drive high levels of academic achievement among their students while demonstrating instructional leadership and Teach For America’s core values.

Brousseau was recognized for her success in taking a class of 9th graders disinterested in science to one where all 112 students passed the New York State Living Environment (biology) Regents exam.

When Brousseau arrived at the school, she expected that she would have to work hard to catch her ninth graders up both in science and in core skills like reading. For most of her students, English was a second language; many were reading below the seventh grade level. She was, however, not prepared for their lack of interest in biology. Brousseau had assumed, because the school was called the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, that students had chosen to focus on science. Instead, she faced a room of ninth graders who said explicitly that they were “not that interested” in what she was going to teach.

According to Brousseau, “I want to change the perception of ‘science’ for my students. Too many of them come into my class with the preset mentality that science is ‘too hard’ or ‘only for the smart kids.’ I want to show them that everyone can learn science and excel in my classroom.”

Brousseau also learned that most of her students would not be invited to sit for the Regents exam because they were not expected to pass it. She thought that was ridiculous and channeled her outrage into action. Brousseau presented to her administration a detailed year-long plan, complete with individualized intervention strategies for her students who were most behind. With her plans, she convinced her principal to let all of her students take the Regents Exam. She decided that every single one of her students would pass it, and she rallied them around the “chance to make history.”

Then she set out to convince her students that she was right.

According to Brousseau’s nominator, “She started by transforming her classroom into the ‘Biological Investigation Academy’—a place where she and her ‘Investigators’ would answer some of the most fascinating questions of science. She created a ‘Live: Exclusive Club’ to which students earned admission by high mastery on assessments or by showing a certain amount of improvement over the previous assessment. Her before and after-school tutoring sessions were flooded with participants after the club started.

“She built her classroom culture around the theme ‘Choose Your Future.’ The sign in her classroom says, ‘Your Choices + Your Actions = Your Future. Choose Your Future.’ That motto appears on every paper she gives to students and also describes the amazing level of ownership her students have for their own progress. They track their progress on every objective, and attend wildly popular ‘corrections parties,’ where, tutored by their peers, they correct answers on assessments and explain why the answer was wrong.

"Brousseau keeps her students engaged with creative classroom projects. In one exercise, called “Two Truths and a Lie,” teams of students draft three plausible statements concerning a topic in biology—two that are accurate, and one that is false. The other teams have to determine which statement is a lie, and explain in detail the precise nature of the inaccuracy. She also started an honors biology class that met before school each day from 7:30 a.m. to the start of her first class."

Brousseau's -- and her students' -- hard work paid off when 109 passed the Regents exam on their first try, and the remaining three passed in the fall. Brousseau's goal had been to have each of her students attain at least a 70 on the exam; in the final analysist their scores averaged 81 percent.

More than 50 Hamilton College graduates are counted among Teach For America's 20,000 alumni. The 10 Hamilton members of the 2009 corps will return to the classroom this fall for their second year of teaching and will be joined by the four Hamilton grads who have committed to teach as members of the 2010 corps.

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