Photos of students and teachers

2008 Innovation in Education Award Finalist

Stephen McCormack

Award: High Impact Teacher of the Year
Laguna Hills High School (Biology Teacher)
Saddleback Valley Unified School District

“I motivate my students to learn and lead themselves to the answers, and empower them to feel like scientists.”  Stephen McCormack, Biology Teacher

Program Description

 Mr. McCormack has developed an AP Biology curriculum that extends the school day and uses technology to aid students as they explore the field of biology.  When introducing the topic of cellular respiration, he uses PowerPoint with video and simulations to help students visualize the molecular events involved.  From home, students can access illustrations from the website, and they can download thought questions that test their understanding and application of the content knowledge.

Ten years ago, Mr. McCormack started a Biology night lab in an attempt to give interested students three extra hours of uninterrupted work time on some of the most interesting lab activities. Additionally, Mr. McCormack sees the value of teachers from different schools working together. Over the past six years, he has invited teachers and students from neighboring high schools to participate in his night labs. The labs are a perfect venue for Mr. McCormack to share his lab activities and show other science teachers how to carryout the lessons in their own classrooms.

Additionally, Mr. McCormack uses untraditional methods when questioning his students. He empowers them and makes them feel as if they are the scientists themselves, addressing them as “Dr. Jones, Dr. Smith, etc.” He does not move on until the student has provided an answer, and gives each student a chance to think through an answer-- no matter how long it takes.

As of a result of Mr. McCormack’s innovative methods, there has been a marked increase in AP Biology pass rates, especially in the amount of students earning high marks of four or five on the test. He also keeps in contact with former alumni and notes that many students have gone on to prestigious colleges, and scientific careers.

What is the role of K-12 education in driving Orange County’s economic competitiveness?

To drive economic competitiveness in Orange County, Mr. McCormack believes that the educational community has to bring the community back into education.  Ten years ago he established the LHHS Alumni Association, which currently has over 300 members. Through the association, Mr. McCormack has been able to bring the experiences of many of the graduates back to the students in his class.

How can business and community members support your efforts?

check mark Arrange a student field trip at your workplace.
  Arrange a teacher field trip at your workplace.
check mark Help underwrite our science, math, or technology programs.
  Participate in a virtual career panel at our school.
check mark Provide college scholarships to our students
  Provide guest speakers at our school.
check mark Provide internships to our students.
  Provide scholarships for teachers to attend STEM-related conferences.
  Provide summer job opportunities to our teaching staff to help them understand workplace requirements.
  Sponsor a robotics team at our school.
  Volunteer as a STEM mentor to our students.
  Volunteer as a STEM mentor to our teachers.
  Volunteer to help with our Science Fair or Science Olympiad.
check mark Work with our teachers to integrate "real-world" skills into their classroom curriculum.


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