Brookfield teacher makes SMART decision at St. Dominic
LaFlamme started advanced science program in 2001
Donna LaFlamme recently received quite the gift from her eighth-graders at St. Dominic in Brookfield: a new iPad.
It was simply a way to show their appreciation for LaFlamme and what she has done for the school — particularly the SMART Team program.
SMART Team, which stands for Students Modeling A Research Topic, pairs research mentors from local institutions with students.
Students visit a mentor’s laboratory to learn more about the process of science and the particular protein the mentor studies; then the team designs and builds a model of the protein.
The teams work with their mentor to develop a poster and an oral presentation to explain their molecular story, which the students at 18 area schools, all high schools except for St. Dominic, did last month at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
LaFlamme, St. Dominic’s SMART Team adviser, was the one who started the program at the school 11 years ago; she has mentored about 220 students during the intervening years.
"What the kids do amazes me," said LaFlamme, who is certified by the MSOE Center for BioMolecular Modeling. "They’re doing things I didn’t do until grad school. This is way beyond the classroom."
LaFlamme entered the classroom as a teacher after working at a bank on Wall Street and a bioengineering lab at Columbia University in New York.
She got her teaching certificate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and taught at St. Joan Antida High School before moving to St. Dominic in 1989.
During this time, she took classes at UW-Madison in the Teacher Enhancement Program for Biology Teachers, designed to help teachers keep up with the latest developments in molecular biology.
It was through this program that LaFlamme connected with the SMART Team program.
"At first, I was not sure that eighth-graders could handle the intense level of learning involved, but they could and did," she said.
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JUST THE FACTS
NAME: Donna LaFlamme
NOTED FOR: founding St. Dominic SMART Team
QUOTABLE: "Being part of the SMART Team and seeing the amazing abilities of the 13- and 14-year-olds has kept me excited about teaching science, even after teaching for 30 years."
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