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Wanda Roldan: S. Miami Middle Science Teacher Breaks Mold

Coloring, poetry big part of class


December 23, 2001
Copyright © 2001
THE MIAMI HERALD . All Rights Reserved.

Students in Wanda Roldan's seventh-grade science class at South Miami Middle Community School have learned to expect the unexpected once they enter her room.

In other words, although they go in there to learn science, they end up drawing, coloring and writing poetry.

Roldan, who has been teaching at South Miami Middle for four years, said that just because she's a science teacher doesn't mean that should confine the classroom activities to science.

"After going to lots of workshops and reading about different teaching styles, I decided to experiment with incorporating other subjects into my lesson plans,'' Roldan said.

English is the subject Roldan uses the most when mixing subjects. The kids all have science learning logs where they analyze and write about quotes from famous scientists and learn science vocabulary.

They even get to figure out science riddles by drawing their answers.

``Poetry is big in my class,'' Roldan said. ``Every month I have the kids write a poem having something to do with science.''

The innovative writing doesn't stop there. Roldan likes to give research projects where the students can have fun.

A while ago the kids made MOST WANTED posters were they chose a scientist, drew him/her and wrote a biographical essay.

Because creativity is encouraged, Roldan likes to assign artistic projects where the kids can ``decorate'' their thoughts.

``Almost everything I assign has some pasting or coloring to it,'' Roldan said.

The creativity doesn't stop at the projects; it carries over into the labs.

``I want my kids to really understand what they're doing so instead of using boring materials for experiments,'' she said. ``I use fun stuff like ice cream instead.''

After various labs, the ice cream lab seemed to be the one everyone remembered.

``The best part about making the ice cream is that we got to it eat it afterward,'' said 12-year-old Adam Cahill, one of Roldan's students.

Roldan doesn't only explain how science worked in the past; she explains modern science and how science will work in their future.

``We get a lot of homework that we have to use Excel for because we make different graphs on whatever we learned in class that day,'' Adam said.

Publisher, another program, is also used when the kids are thinking up stories to help them learn about atoms and molecules.

Roldan said: ``I want the kids to know the different things that computers can help them with, not only for the homework they have now, but for their jobs when they get older.''

Although Roldan makes most of her lesson plans on her own, she admits that without her 23-year-old daughter Surey Rios, things would be a lot tougher.

Rios works at the school as a teacher assistant. Lucky for Roldan, she gets to have her own daughter helping her.

``Surey puts a lot of the computer lessons together for me. Without her I would never get anything done,'' Roldan said.

Not only is Roldan a hit with her students, she's become a favorite among the faculty as well.

Adela Aiguesvives, a seventh-grade science teacher at South Miami, has seen everything that Roldan does.

``I have never seen someone so dedicated to their work; she's a breath of fresh air to her students and the staff.''

Roldan said she gets to school hours before anyone else and she never leaves before 7 p.m.

Roldan even puts in weekend hours sometimes.

``I'm really in to what I do so I'm always looking for new teaching ideas,'' Roldan said.

Even though Roldan has a hectic school schedule, she makes time to be with her family, husband Sergio Rios and son Alex. Sergio said he can't imagine Roldan doing anything else.

``She is completely in love with what she does,`` he said.

The 48-year-old Roldan, who is a native of Puerto Rico, attended the University of Puerto Rico and received a bachelor's degree in biology and general science.

She got her first teaching job at W.R. Thomas Middle and also has taught at South Dade High and Homestead Middle.

Even though Roldan has plenty to think about, she keeps the focus on her students.

``My students are the reason I'm teaching.''

Her kids seem to realize it as well.

``I never used to like science until I met Mrs. Roldan,'' Adam said.

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