Polk County High’s Haynes chosen for summer science trip to Belize

Polk County High science teacher Shannon Haynes, center, with chemistry teacher Leslie Rhinehart (left) and assistant principal Michelle Travieso. Haynes will journey to Belize this summer.

Polk County High School science teacher Shannon Haynes will join 11 other educators from across the state to experience the natural world like never before this summer as part of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Educators of Excellence Institutes.

Haynes and the rest of the group will travel to Belize, Central America, from July 24 to August 1. Along with two educators from Belize, participants will learn about surprising similarities between the ecologies of the tropics and their own region of North Carolina. During this 31st annual trip, they will study birds, butterflies and other animals unique to the tropics and have the opportunity to explore a rain forest, Mayan ruins and a coral reef.

“These trips have the power to change educators’ lives,” says Liz Baird, head of school and lifelong education. “Not only do the Institutes inspire and reward outstanding teachers, they also have a huge impact on how teachers teach and relate to their students.”

Haynes credited fellow Polk County High staff members for inspiring her to apply for a spot on the trip.

“(Assistant principal) Michelle Travieso wrote the administrator recommendation for me on the incredibly short notice I gave her and did an excellent job of supporting me,” Haynes said. “(Chemistry teacher) Leslie Rhinehart informed me about the educator trip through the museum and then sufficiently hounded me this year until I applied. I owe her the credit for forcing me to put my name in the running for this trip.”

The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Educators of Excellence Institutes aim to inform and empower educators to teach students about North Carolina’s ecological connections to the rest of the world. All Institutes have an online blog [www.naturalsciences.org] that allows colleagues and students to follow along on the trip through pictures, journal entries and Q&A.

Institute alumni become part of the Educators of Excellence Network, which helps teachers exchange innovative ideas for teaching science and promoting conservation awareness. More than 500 outstanding North Carolina science educators have participated in Educators of Excellence programs since 1987, while more than 355,000 North Carolina children have learned from these teachers.