Hillsboro Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher Darlene Bartel did clinical lab and x-ray work in Hillsboro for 13 years before she became a teacher, but even then she often found herself teaching in a way.
“I realized while I was working at the clinic that I was looking to tell the patients what I was doing and what the tests might show,” she said Thursday.
When she decided to pursue a career outside of health care, teaching seemed like a natural choice. Although she misses working with patients sometimes, she is happy she made the switch.
“No regrets,” Bartel said. “I think this is what I was born to do.
“The lightbulb moments — when you see a student ‘get’ it — that’s what makes it worth it,” she said.
Because of her prior non-academic career, Bartel tries to put extra focus on real-life connections of the material she teaches students.
Seventh-grade science focuses on life sciences: cellular biology, some ecology, and human body systems. Eighth-grade science is earth science: rocks and minerals, plate tectonics, earthquakes, and meteorology.
Bartel likes teaching middle school, because at that age students can help teach one another. An example occurred on Thursday, when a seventh grader devised a mnemonic — memory aide — for the steps of cellular division.
The steps are Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, and Telophase, in that order. To remind herself what order the steps came in, the student came up with “I Played My Accordion Today.”
Bartel encouraged the student to share her idea with the rest of the class, and she wrote it on the chalkboard to share with the other seventh-grade class.
In addition to science, Bartel teaches reading support for students who struggle with reading. The small-group classes focus on identifying students’ specific needs and tailoring plans to meet those needs.
HMS Principal Greg Brown said more than 95 percent of Bartel’s students have met state science standards the past two years, with 70 percent at the exceeds standard or exemplary level.
She is in her 19th year teaching in Hillsboro. After one year at Hillsboro Elementary School, she has spent the rest of her teaching career at HMS.