When it comes to science, teacher Heather Angelo is both an irresistible force and immovable object.
Her passion for the subject has helped the Hendrick Hudson School District establish an annual Science Expo for elementary students. And that passion now has led the school board to honor “Hurricane Heather” with its Extra Mile award.
While husband and parents, hers and his, looked on, Angelo, 34, was recognized last week at a school board meeting in the library of Hendrick Hudson High School. Holding 19-month-old daughter Guliana in her arms, mom stood at the lectern to receive her award from Trustee Charles Thompson.
“She’s a great teacher, good in all areas of the curriculum,” Thompson said in presenting the plaque. “Mrs. Angelo has made science cool, and everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Accepting her award, Angelo was quick to note the contributions of others, from fellow teachers to the school cafeteria workers. “While I might be the face of the Expo,” she said, “it’s certainly a collaborative effort.”
Angelo described herself as “just very fortunate.” After 13 years of teaching, she said, “I love science; I love what I do.” A Rockland County native, she grew up in Nanuet and lives now in New City with her husband, Dr. Nicholas Angelo, an organic chemist, and their daughter, Guliana.
“Science is everywhere and in everything that we do,” Angelo says. “It is important to expose kids to science and get them curious about their world and surroundings as soon as possible.”
For her part, Angelo lost little time in establishing the Science Expo at Furnance Woods, where she has been teaching fourth-graders since 2003. After overcoming some official reluctance to embrace the new project, she staged her first Expo in 2004. Back then, she invited Furnace Woods students in grades 3 through 5 “to explore whatever science topics appeal to them,” Angelo recalls.
Voluntarily, working alone or in groups of two or three, the students perform experiments or collect and gather information about a science topic and later exhibit their work.
Today, the Expo has expanded. It now includes the district’s two other elementary schools, leading to a threefold increase in participants, and has outgrown its original venue, the Furnace Woods cafeteria. “We have taken over the school gym,” Angelo says, “this year having 144 students participate, the highest participation in our school to date.”
When Angelo pioneered the Expo in Cortlandt Manor nine years ago, the new teacher was building on a concept she had already proven in the Bronx. As an early-childhood science specialist at the Albert G. Oliver School, she had created school-wide Science Expos, each with an annual theme.
The school board’s Thompson said, “We hope to see many more Expos in our future.”