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SECME master teacher uses second chance to “touch children.” – Chloe Garth

Imagine going to high school and building a dream house – that is, literally building a house.

You’d start out by reading Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Proceeding
from there, your teacher would ask you to think about society – about
the kind of house you live in, how the building materials and the
design might or might not be appropriate for the environment, the ways
in which the house might or might not be appropriate for your family’s

You’d proceed from there to looking at houses in other regions of
the United States, other cultures of the world. And next, working with
a team, you’d start to build a house for a composite figure – in this
instance, a twenty-three-year-old archaeologist from Mexico City.

You and your team members would argue about the design. Would the
house be close to the city or out in the woods? What colors would this
archeologist paint the walls? Would she choose solar power or some
other source.

Next, you’d head to the lab to create the three-dimensional design.
There would be units on electronics so that you could do the wiring,
units on chemistry and physics so that you could rig the solar power
source, units on mathematics so that you could figure out the one-inch
scale and proceed to build your model.

Finally, it would be time to present. You’d have a unit on technical
writing so that you could write up a report in the proper style and
format. Then, after presenting the model to the class, you and your
team would donate the model to a kindergarten program or a senior
center – as a way of giving back to the community.

“Not at my high school,” you’re probably thinking at this point.
Indeed, in this day of shrinking budgets and rising expectations, it
probably sounds like a dream.

Well, step right up and say hello to Chloe Garth. This former SECME
teacher of the year, from Howard School of Academics and Technology in
Chattanooga, Tennessee, is turning dreams into reality in her
classroom. SECME stands for Science, Engineering, Communications,
Mathematics Enrichment program.

Garth teaches language arts. That’s right, language arts – and math
and physics and chemistry and computers, whatever she thinks her kids
need to learn. And she’s had to put herself through a strenuous
education process to be able to teach them.

“Just as they learn, I learn,” she says.

Asked if she credited SECME for her creative “dream house” teaching
unit, she chuckled and said, “No, just something from the warped mind
of spastic Chloe.”

For Garth, teaching is a second career one she came to ten years ago after suffering a serious car accident.

“I nearly died,” she says. “It took me two years to recover. I had
to learn how to walk again, how to talk again. And there were two
things in my life that were very important to me – my God, and those
very special people who were my teachers.”

While recovering, Garth enrolled in a master’s program. Teaching became, she says, “part of my rejuvenation of self and soul.”

“It sounds crazy, but I’m glad that through suffering I got a second
chance with my life,” Garth says. “To have been given the chance to
touch children, to be a mentor to children, is just so precious to me.”

There’s only one thing in her life that Garth would change.

“If I were given the opportunity to live fifteen years of my life
over, I’d spend that fifteen years teaching. Then I could say I’d been
a teacher for twenty-five years instead of ten.”

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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