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University of Colorado Denver

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What a difference a teacher makes

Photo of Regina Bis

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires."
- William Arthur Ward

For PhD graduate, Regina Bis, a love of science came in high school when she met science teacher Mike Thomas, who taught her honors chemistry and honors physics at J.K. Mullen High School in Denver.  “He touched my mind and heart and encouraged me to be the best,” says Regina.

When most girls shied away from scientific pursuits, Regina was attracted to them like a magnet. Often thought of as being the domain of boys, science had an appeal that was alluring. “I never felt like it was a ‘boy’s only club.’ Mr. Thomas made me feel welcome. He made it exciting, inspiring and accessible, showing me that studying science was both necessary and fascinating.” Providing the students with hands on experiences including hiring them to work at his metallurgy company and the opportunity to work on the cars in his car collection, “was very different than a lecture or classroom busy work,” says Regina. “It was engaging and spurred a lifelong love.”

You may think that being a science teacher at a Catholic school is akin to blasphemy, but Regina says it isn’t so. “Mullen allowed me to explore a love of science. It was probably one of the most nurturing learning environments I could have had.” In fact, Mr. Thomas was the person who encouraged Regina apply to the Colorado School of Mines, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with minors in bioengineering and life sciences. Early exposure to Huntington’s disease motivated her to think about post graduate studies and ways to help cure the disease. She contacted professor Tom Anchordoquy, PhD, and asked specifically what she should focus on during her undergraduate years. “In all my years of running the graduate program, I have never had a student contact me so early in their undergraduate career. That level of preparation is what makes Regina an excellent scientist.”  To succeed in a scientific realm, “You have to be inquisitive and be willing to ask questions that have not been asked before,” says Anchordoquy.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have such great teachers in my life,” says Regina. But according to Thomas, “I’ve been the one who is fortunate. A great student makes a great teacher.”