Portrait of a Graduate in Action: Lisa Reece Inspires Lifelong Learning… By Doing It!


Portrait of a Graduate in Action: Lisa Reece Inspires Lifelong Learning… By Doing It!

January 11, 2024

Portrait of a Graduate in Action is a regular feature that provides greater meaning and examples to the Warwick Valley Central School District’s Portrait of a Graduate, a representation of the district’s priority goals for teaching and learning to create graduates who are collaborators, communicators, creators and innovators, ethical and global citizens, resilient individuals, problem-solvers, and life-long learners.

WVHS science teacher Lisa Reece travels the globe to visit schools in other countries. She learns about their educational models, techniques, and goals. Just this past summer, she traveled with a group of teachers to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. The summer before that, she joined a group on a trip to Estonia and Finland (the latter of which is rated the number one educational system in the world). She’s also had her passport stamped in Asia and South America!

“The whole thing started when I chaperoned my daughter’s trip to China,” said Ms. Reece. “She was going there with her orchestra, so I was able to go along and experience the school over there and the students. Ever since, I’ve been looking at schools all over the world.”

As she explains it, “it’s teachers who just love traveling together and seeing how other teachers teach,” which sounds a lot like a great example of one of the qualities of our district’s Portrait of a Graduate – being a Lifelong Learner.

“Well, I’ve always liked September. I’ve always like books. I guess you have to as a teacher,” laughed Ms. Reece. “But, yes, I always do something over the summer, some kind of travel, professional development, whether it’s through the school or on my own. So… I guess I am a lifelong learner!”

She does complete the “lifelong learner checklist”: enthusiastic and hopeful about the new knowledge she can gather from the world around her; feels self-directed learning is essential; is dedicated to gaining more understanding of more things… all the time.

What’s more, though, she does all she can to instill that go-for-it attitude and approach toward curiosity in her students. She does it not only inserting her new knowledge into classroom lessons, but by sharing her own personal adventures with them as much as possible.

“I’ve always told my students, ‘do not to be afraid to put [yourselves] out there,’” she said. “So, I always talk about, for example, my summer at space camp with a group of teachers from all over the world, when we trained as astronauts.”

She said that getting to share videos of her own learning adventures – like the one of her NASA training, or another she took during her travels along the Peruvian Amazon – has been a great way to show students that it’s more than “okay” to get out into the world, it’s essential.

“Go someplace,” she enthused. “Do the hands-on research!”

Ms. Reece often puts herself out there, not only traveling to far away schools, but proving her mettle in other ways, like maintaining her designation as a NYS Master Gardener (via Cornell Cooperative Extension), and through her work as a Regeneron STEM Teaching Fellow. Most recently, Ms. Reece’s curiosity led her to get involved with the Nourish the Future Teacher Leader Community (NTF).

NTF a national network and initiative developed that unites teachers who share a deep understanding of agriculture and its connections to STEM knowledge, skills, and careers. NTF aims to inspire and empower teachers to foster student connections to modern agriculture, help develop critical thinking skills, and provide sound science-based resources that meet their students’ needs – and their own – in the classroom. 

“My interest in Nourish the Future comes from thinking about securing food for our growing population,” said Ms. Reece, who explained that the subject matter is a nice fit for her WVHS classroom syllabus. “We do a whole unit on human impact, so I knew there would be ways I could apply what I would be learning [at NTF] to our course. And being that we’re in Warwick, there’s still a lot of farming going on, so addressing issues around farming practices feels close to home and is important.”

NTF is all about teachers collaborating and sharing their ever-evolving ideas, to innovate the ways in which the topic of food production is taught and learned. In Ms. Reece’s class, she focuses on human impact on the environment, emphasizing the concept of sound stewardship by examining issues such as how poor farming practices negatively affect healthy soil, and ways farmers plow their fields to maintain the soil. The students also cover a unit on biochemistry, which looks at the different components of food – proteins, lipids, and carbs. While human health is not the bulk of Ms. Reece’s course, she does talk about biomolecules and their effects on human health.

For her role with NTF, Ms. Reece will attend webinars every other month from February through July, as well as the Nourish the Future Community Conference in Houston, at the end of February. The program culminates in an in-person graduation celebration, set for August in St. Louis. Besides the collaborations with other NTF members, Ms. Reece will author her own online lesson to be featured on the NTF website, and prepare and present a related professional development session for an audience here in New York.

“I’d like to take what I learn from this program and tie it into my lesson for our students, but also share it with our other bio teachers,” said Ms. Reece. “I’ll likely make my presentation to the Master Teachers in the Hudson Valley, which would let them see the fabulous [NTF] website and all the material that’s available for them there.”

Yes, Ms. Reece is also a NYS Master Teacher Emeritus, which puts her among the state’s “outstanding teachers recognized for their dedication to providing the most innovative STEM education to their students, their commitment to professional growth, and their enthusiasm for sharing their successful practices with colleagues in their schools, districts, and regions.” It is a position that requires teachers to – you guessed it – take part in ongoing professional development. As an Emeritus member, Ms. Reece has completed four years as NYS Master Teacher, and actively contributes to STEM educational initiatives in the region.

Ms. Reece said that there isn’t a program or trip from which she hasn’t brought something wonderfully valuable back for her classroom and colleagues.  

“I just try to make whatever it is interesting, and relate it to things in my students’ real lives,” said Ms. Reece. “It’s not that they’re that interested in, say, gardening, but that’s just my way of bringing something different to the table. It’s all about the future.”


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