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MHS science teacher makes the world a classroom

May 6, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — Sara Bostelman may have the largest classroom in Arizona — assuming her classroom can be confined to just Arizona.

Bostelman teaches regular and honors earth science at Mohave High School. She likes to link issues she covers in her lessons to sites nearby. Thus trips to the Grand Canyon to discover erosional features, and to the Black Mountains, home to volcanic remnants of the Silver Creek Caldera.

Going on hikes and experiencing the outdoors, Bostelman said, “is something that’s huge for me and something I want to share with my kids.”

By her kids, she means her students. She will brook no talk about how awful teenagers are.

“People need to come in and see for themselves,” Bostelman said. “If they knew the students like I do, they would know that we have kind and compassionate kids that want to make a positive impact on their community.”

Bostelman got into teaching through a desire to impact students like the teen she once was. She said she was inspired by a couple of really bad teachers — the likes of which she’d like to help others avoid having to endure — and by a pair of really good teachers she tries to emulate.

Her junior-year English teacher, Mrs. Roach, was always encouraging to every student, she said.

“Every student was her favorite student,” Bostelman said. “Her approach just made me want to do better for her.”

The next year, Bostelman had Mr. Priest for a government class; he also was her track coach.

“I’ve let him know what an impact he’s had on my career,” she said. “He really pushed me outside my comfort zone and helped me gain the confidence to speak up for myself.”

Vice Principal James Armijo said Bostelman does that.

“She’s not afraid to voice her opinion,” he said. “If she has a thought, she’ll bring it to you, and she’ll defend it.”

One of the things Bostelman is proud of is working with Key Club members to create a prom for students with special needs. The event was the brainchild of a student about six years ago whose brother and friends didn’t feel comfortable at the regular prom.

The event has grown each year, Bostelman said, with the students latching onto doing something special for their peers. For the last two years, the Aquarius Casino Resort has hosted the special-needs prom.

Armijo said Bostelman is an advocate for her students and makes it clear that she cares.

“To me, the key to being a really good teacher is building relationships with students,” he said. “And that’s what she does best.”

Freshman Brian Ortiz said Bostelman’s ability to relate to her students helps them learn. He said she also gives the students fun projects to work on.

One project had students study erosion control and try to address possible flash floods, landslides and rock slides that could affect the area. Each student then developed an erosion mitigation technique that was intended to prevent or minimize the impact of erosion.

They built models out of materials that included rocks, popsicle sticks, PVC pipes and artificial turf.

“They really get into that,” Bostelman said. “It makes the concepts come alive for them and allows them to be creative.”

Students also have been studying how different weather patterns take shape, what factors shape climate and the factors causing climate to change. They’ve also learned about environmental issues in the Colorado River watershed, and how recent flooding in Nebraska can impact Tri-state residents through increases in the prices of food.

Bostelman said that, as a student, she struggled when a teacher could explain a concept only one way. She said her goal is to explain them in different ways, so that she can reach every kind of learner.

Freshman Chloe Alvarez said Bostelman is good at explaining, and provides a lot of activities that make her class fun.

“I think I’ve learned more than in any previous science class,” Alvarez said.

Bostelman said her favorite part of being a teacher is helping students grow. She has taught some students in their freshman year and had them again as seniors and seen the difference.

“It’s fun to keep track of the students,” Bostelman said. “To see them working hard at getting into their dream school.”

Bostelman has come full circle from her days as a camp counselor and youth group advisor.

“Working with kids has always been my passion,” she said. “Whatever field I went into, I knew working with kids would be involved.”

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