Gifted teacher earns DOD kudos Published Aug. 26, 2011 By Kelly Deichert Air University Public Affairs MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Bringing real-world experiences into the classroom earned a Maxwell Elementary/Middle School teacher praise from her students and the title teacher of the year. "It's a great honor," said Rebecca Hill, the gifted-education teacher. "I'm so passionate about what I do, and I think I have the best job in the school." The Department of Defense Education Activity named her teacher of the year for Georgia/Alabama District. Hill has been at Maxwell for 11 years and has taught at DoDEA schools in the Philippines, Germany and Korea. Her gifted program at Maxwell provides individualized curriculums for students eager to learn above their grade level. Since Hill teaches students who are a variety of ages in a variety of subjects, she uses an interdisciplinary approach. She challenges students through "real-world scenarios that apply the disciplines across different subjects," she said. One activity both Hill and the students enjoy is the First LEGO League competition, where children program robots, develop research skills and learn practical uses for math and science. "There's a lot of interaction, and it's a lot of fun," said Frank Rossi, a sixth grader who competed last year. "(Hill) pushes us to our highest level." "The light bulb goes on when they understand beyond just writing an assignment on paper," Hill said. "DoDEA is really looking at science, engineering concepts in 21st century learning." Hill also sponsors the youth leadership team, comprised of 12 students selected by their teachers for their leadership potential. The team won the youth group volunteer of the year award in 2010, sponsored by the Volunteer and Information Center and the Junior League of Montgomery. The team plans school assemblies, escorts important school guests, offers tours and organizes outreach opportunities. "During our book fair last year, we had a book drive and collected 3,000 books," Hill said. "You couldn't even walk in my room, I had books everywhere." The school gave the donations to schools in Tuscaloosa hit by tornadoes in April. Other efforts included a drive for the Montgomery Food Bank, collecting more than 2,000 pounds of food. Students also participated in the Make Change for Haiti campaign, collecting $800 for the Red Cross. Hill also took students on a field trip to NASA's Space Center in Huntsville. "Everything from shooting off rockets to listening to stories about Hamm the astro-chimp, the entire trip was flawlessly organized and executed," said Shannon Rossi, a parent who nominated Hill for the award. "My children have profoundly benefitted from Ms. Hill's incredible work ethic and superior character." Hill's students are enthusiastic about her programs and look forward to her class each year. "She really understands us and how we want to learn" said Julia Touchette, a sixth-grader who has been Hill's student since the third grade. "(The trip to Huntsville) was really cool. We actually get to go places." "It's a lot more fun than just sitting at desks," said Daria Selkirk, a sixth-grader. Whether challenging her students to learn beyond their grade level or inspiring them with real-world scenarios, Hill is an advocate for her students. "Every child should be able to reach his or her potential," she said. "Every child deserves to have respectful and challenging tasks at whatever level they're at."