Randolph College recently named Heritage High School biology teacher Catherine Drumheller the winner of the Science Teaching Award from Randolph (STAR). The award honors a high school science teacher who has contributed significantly to the lives of students and exhibits excellence in the teaching of science.
The award includes a $1,500 stipend, as well as an additional $1,000 as an unrestricted grant for the winner’s department.
In addition to her duties at Heritage, where she’s taught since 2013, Drumheller has taken on a larger role in the state. She is a member of the Virginia SOL test development committee that evaluates test questions, assesses test data, and approves test forms.
During the pandemic, she was chosen by the Department of Education to develop online activities and labs for teachers throughout the state. She was also appointed to be the lead for all biology teachers in the division during virtual learning.
“Mrs. Drumheller has the innate ability to make science come alive in the classroom,” Maria Jaeger, secondary instructional supervisor of math, science and gifted for Lynchburg City Schools, wrote in a recommendation letter. “Science has to be experienced to be relevant for students, and Mrs. Drumheller is constantly seeking ways to bring science lessons to life with real-world applications.”
One of her most recent innovations in the classroom was the installation of an aquaponics ecosystem, which has allowed students to learn firsthand about ecosystems by growing fresh vegetables and raising fish.
The system, funded by a grant she applied for and won from the Lynchburg City Schools Education Foundation, includesnearly 100 tilapia enclosed in a 140-gallon tank that also feeds plant beds where students grow and harvest fruits and vegetables. They sell what they grow to maintain the system.
The project has also brought together other departments in the school. A carpentry class built grow light stands, and the culinary arts program uses the fresh vegetables in its dishes.
“She is an out-of-the-box thinker, creative in her approach to leadership and instruction,” Jaeger said. “And her approach works.”
Drumheller earned her undergraduate degree in biology from Mary Washington College, now the University of Mary Washington, and her master’s in educational leadership from Lynchburg College, now the University of Lynchburg.
At Heritage, her work goes beyond the lab. She is the faculty lead for Project Inclusion and Diversity Dialogue Day; the faculty sponsor for Lynchburg City RISE, a student organization designed to give a voice to minority students; and coordinator of the school’s food pantry, which provides weekly meals for any student in need.
“She is an outstanding teacher both inside and outside the classroom,” ” said Heritage principal Timothy Beatty. “She has always been willing to make a difference in the lives of others.”Tags: 2022 Science Festival, education, scifest, SciFest STAR