By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Like baseball’s Yogi Berra said, “it’s like deja-vu all over again” and that is true for Robert E. Lee fifth grade science teacher Tracy Henry who for the second time in two years was recently named the Gainesville ISD teacher of the month.
Henry said, “I was so surprised and humbled by this honor and it’s great to be recognized for something that I just love doing.”
Henry spent a large part of her career in the high paced corporate world of the Metroplex as she worked her way up the ladder with Blue Cross-Blue Shield. After 19 years with the company, unexpected cutbacks left her jobless with the question of what direction she now wanted to go career wise.
“Not having children of my own, I decided that I wanted to leave a legacy of some sort,” she said. “I thought it over and decided that with my severance package, I could go back to school and be a teacher.”
“I went to North Central Texas College to get my associate’s degree and then to Texas Woman’s University to get my bachelor of science with a major in education.”
While at North Central Texas college, Henry met Dr. Lisa Bellows, chair of science and math initiatives, who encouraged her emerging interest in teaching science and nature.
Henry said she asked Bellows if she could really find a job teaching about science and studying nature and was amazed when she said yes.
“I couldn’t believe I was able to get paid for doing the job that speaks to my heart,” Henry said.
Henry loves to get her students outside the class and last week’s trip to Camp Leeper took many of her students to places they have never been before. Instead of getting back to nature, many kids were able to get to nature by experiencing for the first time the outdoor world with flora, fauna, geology and other aspects of the lake area to study.
The annual event to Leeper Lake is provided by a grant funding from the GISD Education Foundation. The timing of the trip ties in directly to the in-class curriculum.
“The text books come to life outdoors as kids experience first hand what they have been studying,” Henry continued.
Lee Intermediate Principal Dee Dosher said, "Leeper Lake is a great opportunity for the 5th graders at Lee to bring their learning to life. By hiking down trails equipped with science field journals and a plastic baggie to collect any unique finds (rocks, leaves, fossils, snake skins, etc.), students are able to see life cycles of plants and animals, and food chains first hand. On the day that I went, we found wild boar tracks, learned about different types of berries, and saw firsthand the devastation brought about by drought."
Henry said fifth grade is the perfect age to be able to take a field trip to the outdoors.
“Fifth graders are very inquisitive and are mature enough to understand concepts,” she continued. “They still get excited about what they find. I have students bring me things quite often that they have found outdoors. It’s neat.”
Lee principal Dee Dosher said about Henry, “Because of her dedication to providing multiple opportunities to experience science in her students’ daily lives, Tracy Henry is the October nominee from Lee Intermediate for teacher of the month. The students are so excited about traveling to Leeper Lake the week of October 21, and they can thank Mrs. henry for organizing this awesome learning activity!”
Nine years into her teaching career at Lee, Henry is still doing the job she was inspired to do.
“When someone asks if I have children, I always say that I have about 115 each year,” Henry said. “If I could teach them all just one thing, I would tell them to explore their world and take care of it. It’s the only one we have.”