The completion of Deb Carnevale’s college career didn’t signal the end of rigorous classes and demanding homework assignments.
Long after earning her master’s degree and long after securing a position as a science teacher at Overland High School, Carnevale has kept up a diligent and impressive class schedule. She’s taken courses through the Biological Sciences Initiative program at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus; she’s enrolled in the same anatomy and physiology courses at the Community College of Aurora that are available to concurrent enrollment students at Overland.
It’s all part of Carnevale’s continuing commitment to keep up on the latest trends in an ever-changing field. As a teacher who specializes in cutting-edge curriculum, Carnevale can’t rely on outdated lesson plans. The capstone courses in the school’s relatively young biotechnology program demand up-to-date content; they demand an instructor who’s up on the newest advancements in a complex field.
“I’ve always taken extra classes,” said Carnevale, who started teaching in the Cherry Creek School District 16 years ago. “Science teachers have to keep up with their skills. If they don’t do that, they’re doing a disservice to their students. You need to really teach them the current things that are happening out there.”
That effort has paid off for Carnevale and her students. Earlier this year, the Colorado BioScience Association named Carnevale as its 2014 Teacher of the Year. The honor comes as a validation for Carnevale, who launched the program 12 years ago with the help of grants secured through the help of then principal John Buckner. As the initiative developed, Carnevale also drew on support from the district’s original Office of Diversity, the University of Colorado BioScience Initiative Program, the district’s Career and Technical Education program, the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation and continuous support from current principal Leon Lundie.
“It’s a validation of our program, absolutely,” Carnevale said. “The course I teach is a capstone; we want students to take the classes leading up to it,” she added, listing AP biology, chemistry and other courses as important precursors.
The rigorous program has paid off for countless Overland grads.
Since Carnevale launched the biotechnology program more than a decade ago, it’s become a valuable resource for students looking to gain an edge heading into college. Carnevale said she’s connected countless students heading to college with job opportunities starting their freshman year. Thanks to the high-level skills learned through the program’s in-depth programs and lab experiments, students have found immediate access to jobs in university biology labs and other settings.
“That’s what my program is about – it’s about the skills and the content that goes with it,” Carnevale said. “Instead of having a student bus tables at the student union for a job, they can get work in the labs as freshmen. Every year, I have students who get jobs as freshmen in these research laboratories. They go on to continue and receive advanced degrees in bioresearch.”
The program has only grown with the expanded space and resources of the Institute of Science and Technology campus that opened its doors in 2011. The specialized facility dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum has deepened students’ access to cutting-edge tools, equipment and lab space.
“We simply didn’t have the space before,” Carnevale said, pointing to the spacious classroom she now occupies, a room packed with cutting-edge equipment, lab tables and other tools. “The Cherry Creek District is so supportive of its teachers. They offer professional development and various kinds of grants that the everyday teacher can get.
“I was so lucky to get into this district,” she added.