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WHS's Silver Named Biology Teacher of the Year

By Susan Morse

Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 26, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Winnacunnet High School biology teacher Cathy Silver has been named N.H. Outstanding Biology Teacher of the Year.
[Don Clark file Photo]

HAMPTON -- Winnacunnet High School teacher Catherine F. Silver is New Hampshire's Outstanding Biology Teacher of the Year.

Fellow Winnacunnet teacher, John Croteau, nominated Silver for the award given by the National Association of Biology Teachers. Silver then spent at least 20 hours getting the application together.

"I've never been nominated before," Silver said. "It's an application process, pretty difficult. It's the type of thing you write several pages of papers and get several letters of support from colleagues, parents and parents of students. It's nothing you do in a couple of hours."

Silver didn't do it for herself, she said.

"I didn't see it for me, I saw it as an honor for the school," she said. "I do feel the teachers at Winnacunnet want the community to know what a good school it is."

Residents within the SAU 21 district voted $26 million for a school addition and renovation, including a new gymnasium. The teacher of the year honor, Silver said, is saying to the community: "We appreciate it, the money is well used, we're working hard here."

Hardly a day goes by teachers don't say how much easier it is to teach in the new facilities, she said. There are better labs and six sinks in a room instead of two.

In July, 2005, Cathy Silver christened the Henry B. Bigelow, a research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, after she and her students won the competition to name the vessel. Bigelow was an early marine biologist in New England.
[Andrew Moore file photo]

"My kids now aren't tripping over one another, it's not a safety issue," she said. "There's room to move, room to work."

A special presentation of her award will be given by the National Association of Biology Teachers at its 2007 national convention in Atlanta.

This isn't the first time Silver has represented Winnacunnet in other parts of the country.

In 2005, she was the National Marine Educator of the Year and represented the school in Hawaii.

Three years ago, Silver got to christen the research vessel Henry B. Bigelow, after her students came up with the winning name. The Henry B. Bigelow, named after a famed oceanographer, was built for use at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

Seven years ago, she was the presidential award winner for science in the state, and spent a week in Washington, D.C.

"It puts Winnacunnet on the map too," Silver said. "Every time my name is there, it says, 'from Winnacunnet High School.'"

Silver has been at Winnacunnet since 1989, currently teaching marine biology and oceanography.

A lot of the work is done outside the classroom.

"My students cleaned the beach, we walked the marsh," she said. "It's across the street from here. We can look out the window see high tide, low tide. I've done four separate activities this spring,"

Silver is on the board of directors of Lighthouse Kids Inc., which raises money to save the White Island Lighthouse at the Isles of Shoals. The students recently took part in a walk-a-thon to raise funds.

Silver is an adviser to the science club and works with the Hampton Beach Beautification Committee planting gardens in three different areas near the beach.

"I tend to like to do things out of school, it's just easier to do it," she said. "The kids are very environmentally aware, they like helping out. It was very satisfying working this spring with kids."

Students are sometimes inspired for a career in biology, such as 2000 graduate Heather Taylor, who now trains dolphins in Florida.

"I have students who have definitely gone into some sort of science, some sort of biology," she said.

Married for 31 years, with two children, Silver, and her sister Susan Foote of Seabrook, grew up by the sea. Her father John Foote, was party boat captain for Smith & Gilmore.

"I grew up right at Hampton Beach," she said. "I certainly grew up in a marine biology world. I used to be a fish cleaner. I made money to go to college by digging sea worms."

Silver, 55, graduated from the University of New Hampshire.

This summer, she's working as a crew member on a lobster and island tour boat out of Rye Harbor, the Uncle Oscar.

"I pull the lobster traps," she said, "talk to the people about lobsters. It's an hour-long trip, a great trip for kids."

And her next project? Silver's never applied for New Hampshire Teacher of the year.

"New Hampshire teacher of the year," said Silver, "that's a hard one."

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