Eastern Alamance High School science teacher Medora Burke-Scoll was honored on Tuesday, May 3, as the Alamance-Burlington School System 2022 Teacher of the Year.
Burke-Scoll has been a teacher for 11 years and has spent all 11 of those years at EAHS. She is also an education advocate, serving on the Alamance Burlington Association of Educators and the Alamance NAACP Education Committee.
“I have made it my goal over the last 11 years to advocate for quality public schools. And that comes with funding and access to resources and equity amongst the schools in Alamance County,” Burke-Scoll said. “So, I really hope that I can use this position to continue my work as an education advocate.”
EAHS Principal Eric Yarbrough said what sets Mrs. Burke-Scoll is her connection with students.
“The thing that, to me, makes her great is the fact that she cares about kids. You can have a lot of content knowledge but that doesn’t mean you’re always going to connect with kids and she connects with kids, she finds avenues in which to get to know them,” Yarbrough said. “It’s not just about the content in the curriculum, it’s about the kid.”
A native of rural Wisconsin, Burke-Scoll attended Michigan Technological University, where majored in biology before attending graduate school at Villanova University with a master’s in biogeochemistry. After graduate school, she moved to Mebane, right across from Eastern Alamance.
At the time, Burk-Scoll was working as a research scientist for the Duke River Center, what she studied to do, but soon realized she wanted to be doing something different.
“I was monitoring soil, water and air pollution in a restored wetland, and I realized, I really like science, but I don’t really want to be a research scientist – I want to be a science teacher,” Burke-Scoll said.
During her time as an undergraduate and graduate student, Burke-Scoll had had the opportunity to teach some classes and assist in some labs and, while working at Duke, also serve as a mentor to high school students in summer research programs.
“It sort of occurred to me that, every job I had, my favorite part was the part where I got to teach kids about science…” she said. “Those were the days that I was really excited to go to work, those days where I knew I was going to get to mentor kids and show them around the lab or take them out into the field and collect samples.”
So, Burke-Scoll began taking education classes at the UNC-Greensboro and, as part of that, was required to spend a certain number of hours in a classroom observing. She reached out to then principal Dave Ebert, who put her in touch EAHS Science Department Chair Kris McClure, who helped her get set up to start observing classes once a week.
Burke-Scoll observed EAHS science classes a couple of hours each week, sometimes getting the chance to teach lessons and come up with class activities. During her time observing, it became abundantly clear to her that teaching is her calling.
“I just loved it; it was immediately clear to me that this is what I wanted to be doing. So, when a position opened at Eastern, I applied for it and switched careers,” she said.
As a teacher, Burke-Scoll goes by the motto, “Science is fun, we should do some.” She puts this motto into practice by making her science classes extremely hands-on. Students in Mrs. Burk-Scoll’s classes can expect to do a lot of lab assignments, giving them constant opportunities to see the scientific method in action.
She notes that science isn’t simply a list of facts and reading from a textbook. “It’s how we observe and answer questions about our world, and you can’t do that without finding something you’re interested in, finding a question you want to know the answer to and figuring out how to test it,” she said.
Burke-Scoll understands that many of her students won’t go on to biologists or botanists, but the lessons in critical thinking and problem solving learned in her classes, she believes, will benefit them down the road.
“My goal is that they walk away from my classroom understanding the process of how science [is done], how information is generated, how we discover things and, also, that they have positive memories about the field.”
Yarbrough said Mrs. Burke-Scoll’s work inside and outside the classroom make her deserving of the Teacher of the Year honor.
“The thing is, Mrs. Burke-Scoll is an educator not just from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. when we’re in school, she’s an educator by educating our public about what’s going on within our schools and about how they’re funded and working with teachers and working with our central office and working with our board,” he said.
Yarbrough noted that 2022 is the fifth year in a row that a teacher in the Mebane community has been named ABSS Teacher of the Year.