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Fusing science and responsibility
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Lillie Fuse, science teacher at Sharp Learning Center, has been teaching since 1972, but she didn't set out to become an educator.

Fuse always loved science and majored in chemistry at Georgia South Western University wanting to become a research chemist.

After graduation, she worked one summer in a laboratory as a part-time chromatographer.

She soon realized that as an adult she needed a full-time job. Many of Fuse's family members had taught in schools, so she decided to give it a try.

Her first assignment was as a high school algebra and civics teacher.

Now she teaches physical science and oversees students taking science courses on the Newton County School System's online credit recovery program, NovaNet.

"A lot of people think that's a simple thing to do," Fuse said, "but you'll have a biology question over here and then a chemistry question over here, so sometimes it's hectic."

Fuse said because her students love lab work, she tries to incorporate as many hands-on activities into her lesson plans as she can.

Sharp students have access to laptops, on which they can perform virtual lab experiments such as dissections.

"We are blessed to have that," Fuse said.

Fuse also tries to show students how everything involves science.

"When you talk to them about how science affects their lives daily - they get interested," Fuse said.

She tells students about how rubber like that on their shoes' soles was formulated by accident, has students read online articles about the elements involved in global warming and said students were amazed to test the acidity of foods such as ketchup.

Fuse cites her biggest challenge in teaching, making students read.

"If you don't read the question, you can't answer it," Fuse said.

She explained how students often want answers provided to them rather than study and also have a difficult time connecting ideas together in critical thinking.

"Something has stopped our children from learning on a broad basis," Fuse said.

Fuse believes teachers have lowered their expectations of students and administrators have watered-down curricula to try to meet state standards since the time when she was in school.

Before a test, Fuse said students sometimes ask for the ability to use their notes or a book for the exam and are appalled when she tells them no. She said she never would have dreamed of asking her teachers or professor for that privilege.

According to Fuse, complacent teachers who allow students to squeeze through school without studying create students unprepared for college and the workforce.

"I just want them to understand the importance of education," Fuse said. "It's not just 'I'm 18, I wake up and I graduate' - you've got to do something in between."

She said teachers must be dedicated to generating students who are self-motivated learners.

"You have to teach for the kids," Fuse said, "and they have to learn for themselves."