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East // East Oahu Coverstory

Fellowship Taking Teacher To Arctic

Cristina Veresan

Star of the Sea science teacher Cristina Veresan

Kaimuki resident Cristina Veresan has landed an Arctic expedition with National Geographic Society. The Star of the Sea schoolteacher is one of just 25 instructors from the U.S. and Canada chosen as a 2014 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, sponsored by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions.

She’s scored the very first fellowship from Hawaii in the program’s eight-year history of providing field experience and professional development for K-12 teachers. She beat out 1,300 other applicants for the chance to spend June 6-16 at Arctic Svalbard.

“It really was just a lucky discovery on their website to read about it,” Veresan admitted. “I was looking for resources (for my class), just poking around the website, and immediately when I saw the fellowship, I thought, ‘What an amazing opportunity to be able to travel to these remote places that usually people don’t get to go to — the Arctic, Antarctica.’”

The voyage will entail a lot of hiking and kayaking for Veresan, who will be armed with a camera to document it all. But as thrilled as she is to have the chance to see polar bears, walruses and other wildlife up close, she is most excited to share it with her middle-school science students in Kahala. And she’s especially keen on researching Arctic plankton.

“I’ll be bringing back to Hawaii knowledge about a totally different part of the world, yet hopefully an understanding of how we’re all connected,” she said.

A science teacher’s major motivation is to put concepts in context, to see things through both local and global eyes. For example: “If I’m talking about plant adaptation, of course I’ll bring in Hawaii examples and get kids out in the field here, but I could also share, ‘Wow! Look at these tiny Arctic plants and how they are so well-adapted to the ecosystems up in these northern regions and how they’re able to survive!’ … It will inspire new lessons, but also enhance concepts that I’m already teaching.”

At a related workshop last month in Washington, D.C., she met the other fellows and learned how they will pool and share the knowledge they gain from their different voyages.

Having moved to Hawaii only two years ago from Florida, she admitted that it could be a difficult transition from tropics to tundra. After all, she doesn’t want to be “too cold” to enjoy the trip, she said with a laugh.

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