Every teacher takes the time to prepare and craft their lesson plans and curriculum. However, not all teachers look beyond the textbooks and truly connect with their students.

Enter Heather Roach, the 2017 BP Teacher of the Year.

Roach teaches science at East Anchorage High School. She creates an environment that makes science fun and encourages wonder. That learning environment, her classroom, is lovingly referred to as “The Roach Motel.”

"It’s just a fun place for learning and it's like my home away from home, and I try to make it a home away from home for my students,” Roach said. "So the colors, the pictures, you know it's got to be exciting. I want them to want to be there."

Now in her 25th year teaching at East, Roach says the key to success is engagement and developing a rapport with students.

"I think it's those little conversations that you have, and you have to make them feel safe,” she explained. “And I try to emphasize it's okay if we make mistakes because that's learning. You know, we rarely get it right on the first time."

A perfect example of this engagement was in Roach’s second period anatomy class. She worked with students in small groups on a project and prepared them for an upcoming test on the makeup of human skin.

While her students were frustrated at not being able to quickly answer some of her questions, Roach put it all in perspective. She simplified the complicated subject matter in a way her students could understand, and her students said they appreciated her patience and effort.

When asked about her motivation to teach, she points to her students.

“Those guys,” she said. “I love what I do in there. It’s the kids.”

Roach says a better understanding of science will serve students well in life, and solid background knowledge can help them find answers to questions they may have.

“It just explains everything around us, and we want to instill that curiosity,” she said. “We want them to be well-informed because these students are going to grow up to be voters, and they're going to be making some decisions that's going to affect everybody.”

Roach's reach extends beyond the classroom. She has a passion for European football and was the East soccer coach for several years. She is also credited for bringing back East High's robotics team, which has participated in three world championships.

KTVA is partnering with BP to celebrate 25 years of BP Teachers of Excellence. Tune in to KTVA 11's Daybreak and 6 p.m. newscast each Monday throughout the school year, as we continue to recognize outstanding Alaskan educators.

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