Dorothy J. Harris, science teacher at Quince Orchard High School, has received a 2002 Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award from the Washington Post. She is among 20 winners of the prestigious award, presented annually to one teacher from each Washington metropolitan area school district. Harris has been a secondary science teacher at Montgomery County Public Schools for 22 years.
Harris emphasizes hands-on experiences in her classroom and has developed unique labs and creative lessons that bring the subject matter to life for her students. She often teaches three or four different science subjects during one year. On any given day, some of her students may be studying anthropology at a simulated dig, while others explore chemistry by making inorganic polymers, and a third group learns about the environment through investigation of protein amounts in foods.
In September 2001, Harris received the Patricia Seitz Memorial Teacher of the Year Award from the Archeological Society of Maryland for her work in incorporating archeological content and projects into her classroom instruction. She is the author of a one-half credit science course, Biological Anthropology and Archaeology, which blends science and social science concepts.
Colleagues praise her ability to bring a wide variety of resources and experiences to enrich instruction. As an example, she has offered a computer-based surgery program in which students are able to experience virtual operations with the aid of the software. Her honors anatomy students spend a day with a health care professional and report to their classmates on the experience. Some of these interactions have led students to summer jobs with area doctors and other health care workers.
Harris is constantly widening her own educational experiences to the benefit of students. For example, after being selected by the Maryland State Department of Education to attend The Decision Making Model Workshop on the Chesapeake Bay, she trained other teachers to use a role-playing awareness activity for the classroom that was developed at the workshop. Recently, she was part of a team that conducted an inventory of the holdings at the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard Medical School and has used her photographs and notes in class discussions.
Her knowledge of anatomy has made Harris a valuable member of the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, a federal volunteer team of professionals in the forensic sciences that helps identify victims of mass disasters. She was recognized in 2001 by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences for her extensive volunteer work.