Washington County science teacher focuses on hands-on education to turn on students' minds

Ophelia Barizo has been honored with awards for her efforts in high school science

June 18, 2012|By JANET HEIM |
  • Highland View Academy science teacher Ophelia Barizo recently received the 2012 PASCO STEM Educator Award.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Ophelia Barizo loves science and can’t wait to share it with her students at Highland View Academy east of Hagerstown.

Her passion for education was recently rewarded when Barizo was recognized by the National Science Teachers Association with the 2012 PASCO STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Educator Award at the high school level.

“She’s a pretty amazing teacher. We’re very blessed to have her, that’s for sure,” Principal Deborah Trevino said.

Barizo was one of five educators, and one of two at the high school level, nationally recognized for creating and using modern and effective STEM curriculum in the classroom, according to the PASCO website. PASCO is one of the largest technology companies dedicated to educational technology, Barizo said.

Each award recipient receives a prize worth approximately $4,500, which includes a monetary gift, a certificate for PASCO scientific products and expenses for the awardee to attend the national NSTA conference, which was in Indianapolis at the end of March.

Barizo has ordered four SPARK science learning systems, handheld computers with 60 embedded labs, with her certificate from PASCO.

Her application highlighted her partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, detailing how her students use sensor technology to gather data on water quality, monitor dissolved oxygen, pH and salinity to learn about relevant issues in their community, and develop possible solutions.

Barizo also won the 2012 Shell Science Lab Challenge for Region 3, which includes Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., last year for the mushroom project her environmental science students do each year.

She said when she got the phone call in January about the PASCO award, she was “totally surprised,” since she had just won the Shell award.

In 2009-2010, Barizo was a recipient of a $10,000 Toyota TAPESTRY Grant. She also was selected for the 2011 “Making a Difference” Award from NSTA and the Drug, Chemical and Associated Technologies Association, and has won numerous other teaching awards throughout her career.

Barizo teaches biology, chemistry, environmental science and forensic science at the school, where she has been a teacher for 16 years. She taught art for four of those years.

“My left brain and right brain cancel each other out,” Barizo said with a laugh.

She also does a lot of grant writing for her classes and for the entire school. Most of the equipment for her science labs has been purchased with grant money.

Barizo also takes her science students on three or four field trips a year with Chesapeake Bay Foundation funds, she said.

“My passion is science education,” said Barizo, whose philosophy is “hands on is minds on,” a quote that really stuck with her after a previous NSTA conference.

“I try to give them lots of hands on. I’m excited to do it, because I love doing it,” Barizo said.

She and her husband of 35 years, Daniel Barizo, live in Hagerstown. They have two grown daughters and one grandchild.

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