The Saratoga Sun -

Globetrotting teacher gets national certificate

Lesley Urasky traveled the world as a geologist before returning to Wyoming to teach, earn National Board Certification

 

February 14, 2018

Photo courtesy of Lesley Urasky

Urasky tasting 18,000 year old ice from the Beardmore Glacier in Antarctica during POLARTrec 2010.

In the state of Wyoming, nearly 700 teachers have their National Board Certification–allowing them to teach anywhere in the United States. Lesley Urasky, who has taught for 20 years and teaches science at Saratoga Middle/High School (SMHS), has recently joined those ranks.

According to Urasky, the process leads a teacher to being very introspective as they focus on their professional development. This included taping two different classes that she taught and examining her own teaching process.

The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, which issues the National Board Certification, states on their website that the certification "was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers."

"I know it sounds cliché, but it is the most rewarding job I've ever had," said Urasky.

Urasky doesn't say this lightly. Before she became a teacher she was a geologist, working in the mining industry and the oil and gas fields, before she became a teacher.

"Rocks don't know that you're there and they don't care," Urasky said.

Urasky was born and raised in Cheyenne and received her Bachelor's and Master's of Science in Geology from the University of Wyoming. She moved to Texas to marry her husband, Dave Urasky, but geology jobs weren't available. So she worked as a library aide at the Science Academy of South Texas, the school where her husband taught.

It was while working as a library aide that the school's science teacher abruptly resigned over winter break. The principal, knowing Urasky's science background, asked her to begin teaching once school resumed.

"It was baptism by fire," said Urasky, "I would drive to University of Texas at Brownsville every night after work and then go home and grade papers."

After teaching at the Science Academy of South Texas, Urasky decided it was time to return to her home state of Wyoming. She began teaching at Rawlins High School in 2005. Then, in 2016, she came to SMHS.

As a teacher, Urasky has literally been all over the world. She spent seven weeks in Antarctica, the southernmost point of the globe, with PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating). While there, she took rock samples to measure the rate-of-retreat of the glaciers since the last Ice Age.

Photo courtesy of Lesley Urasky

Urasky holding up a Remora during the "Teacher at Sea" program with NOAA in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

It was in Antarctica she found one of her most prized geological possessions: a glossopteris fossil. The glossopteris is an extinct species of fern. Those fossils have only been found in the southern continents, making them one of the cornerstones for the theory of plate tectonics. Urasky enjoys taking it into her classes and showing it to her students.

"I tell them, 'You're not just holding a piece of Antarctica, you're holding a piece of history,'" said Urasky.

Urasky has been to a dinosaur dig in Montana, where she helped examine a nesting site. She also spent two weeks on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel, fishing in the Caribbean. In all her travels, she makes sure to bring something back to show her students.

"It's nice seeing the kids get excited about something other than their local community and want to do that exploration," said Urasky.

 

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