Ever since Peter Goff ‘89 decided to pursue a career in teaching science, he has understood the significance of exposing students to real world issues-a realization that has not only reshaped his career, but the academic focus of many aspiring college students.
As a high school science teacher and volleyball coach at the Vermont Commons School-a college preparatory school for grades 7-12 located in South Burlington, Vt.-Goff has witnessed firsthand the impact that field experience plays in a young student’s life.
Goff’s one-time vision of incorporating a more hands-on approach at VCS finally came to fruition as he was recognized as the 2012 Vermont High School Teacher of the Year, an award he claims spoke volumes toward the dedication and commitment on behalf of the Vermont Common School community.
“Receiving this honor really underscores the success our school has experienced,” says Goff. “I think the award goes to show the steady growth the school has endured since its infancy. We are a very small, specialized group dedicated to providing our students a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum to prepare them for the next step.”
It was during his time at HWS when he first captured the importance of field experience. Following the advice of Biology Professors Thomas Glover and James Ryan, Goff decided to conduct research at the New York State Agricultural Experiment station to get a taste of what the industry was actually like.
“It really made me feel like I was contributing to something worthwhile,” Goff says. “That experience really set the stage for what I am now trying to achieve as a teacher. I want my students to have the same feeling I had.”
This vision of his came to life in the summer of 2010 when he was awarded two National Science Foundation grants to participate in research in Montana concerning the Whirling Disease–a disease which has a mortal effect on rainbow trout. One of these grants, an NSF-RAHSS (Research Assistantship for high school students), paid for two VCS students to accompany the research team to the project sites in and around Bozeman, Mont.
“It was truly amazing to see these two high school students working on a real world issue,” says Goff. “I think it was great for them to experience science coming to life in such a fashion.”
Goff urges students who have an interest in science to get their hands dirty and get involved as much as possible to see if science is an interest or, better yet, a passion.