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Friday, October 24, 2014
Encouraging the pursuit of science
Rebecca Isseroff spurs students to learn and compete
Jeffrey Bessen/Herald
Lawrence High School chemistry teacher Rebecca Isseroff guides Five Towns students through high level science projects to compete in prestigious competitions such as Siemens.

A “failed” writer who wanted to study science instead of going into teaching as per her mother’s advice, Rebecca Isseroff, a chemistry teacher at Lawrence High School, found a way to combine her initial collegiate interests.

“I got a B in freshman composition and an A in freshmen chemistry,” Isseroff said. “The teacher didn’t like my writing, so I had to choose and made the decision [to major in chemistry at Brooklyn College].”

Isseroff, whose interest in chemistry was spurred by an entertaining high school teacher she had for the subject at the former Hebrew Institute of Long Island in Far Rockaway and a 99 on the chem Regents, also serves as the Lawrence school district’s science competitions coordinator, overseeing student projects for the prestigious Intel and Siemens competitions, along with the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair and other science contests. She helps with their laboratory work in conjunction with Dr. Miriam Rafailovich at Stony Brook’s Garcia Research Center, assists the students in writing their presentation papers, which are up to 20 pages in length and at times require 40 revisions, and shows them how to present their work.

“I love to sit back and see at the end of the research how students can present their work as a new expert in the field and converse with experts in the field,” she said.

A research scientist who took a 16-year hiatus from her professional life to raise a family, Isseroff was pushed into teaching by her husband, Zevi, who registered her for graduate school at Adelphi University. She began teaching in 1994 and has taught at Stella K. Abraham (SKA) High School for Girls in Hewlett Bay Park, Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence and for the past nine years at Lawrence High School.

At SKA, Isseroff was approached by the principal to get the students involved in science research. First shot out of the box, Shira Billet and Dora Sosnowik won the $100,000 team grand prize in the 2001-02 Siemens competition. “Beginner’s luck,” Isseroff called it.

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