THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION 2002 Honor Teacher Awards:
HIGH SCHOOL: PERFORMANCE TRICKS GET THE POINT ACROSS
BYLINE: JEN SANSBURY; Staff
DATE: May 12, 2002
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Home; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Metro News
Annette Parrott, Lakeside High School, DeKalb County
> Education: Bachelor's degree in biological sciences, 1992, from the State University of New York at Buffalo; master of education in secondary science education, 1993, from SUNY-Buffalo
> Years teaching: Nine
Lakeside High School biology teacher Annette Parrott didn't just pop a sac of tapeworm eggs into her mouth . . . did she?
"They're Rice Krispies," ninth-grader Amanda O'Neal announced, with more than a hint of uncertainty, as she scrutinized a plastic baggie holding the stuff in question.
"I know she ate it," Amanda said later. "It does gross us out, but it also shows us she's adventurous."
What did Parrott eat during that class on parasitic creatures? She'll never tell.
"You'll see me next semester and I'll be a size 6!"
An hour in Parrott's biology or environmental science classes may be more entertaining than television. Think Crocodile Hunter meets Fear Factor on the Comedy Channel with a participating live studio audience. In fact, she plans to spend her Honor Teacher award money to take a group of students to visit the rain forest in Panama.
On one recent day, her students stood up to play a game of "Simon Says" for a quick review of anterior, posterior, dorsal and ventral body parts. But with each command, she tried to confuse her amused students by pointing to the wrong place.
Then it was on to a lesson on worms, where she bounced between snippets of video information on two TVs and drawings on her markerboard.
A self-proclaimed wallflower outside of school, Parrott rarely stands in one place for long in her classroom. She changes gears with ease and peppers her teaching with references to things that teenagers can relate to. The head of a tapeworm, she tells them, looks a bit like Darth Maul, the villain of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," who has little horns across his forehead.
She may even perform a quick ad-libbed skit if it'll help her make a point.
"A little bit of teaching is being on stage," said Lakeside principal Randy Lee. "It's a teaching style in which you have to gather their attention and you have to make sure that the point you're trying to make can stick in their mind."
Beyond her antics, though, Parrott is a born educator who is well-organized, manages behavior well and is focused on what she is supposed to teach, Lee said.
Parrott, 30, grew up in New York and developed her interest in science from television nature shows and observing the flora and fauna that lived in the few patches of green outside her multifamily house in the Bronx. Then she would teach her stuffed animals.
Now she loves teaching students using live animals. She also keeps a variety of biological specimens in her cabinets, the most unusual being a human placenta. She typically doesn't identify it as her 5-year-old son Spencer's, but her students eventually figure that out. After all, she said, everyone tends to expect her to be a little shocking.
"I know that I'm unorthodox. Our kids are unorthodox," Parrott said. "You have to think about who you're trying to reach."