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Off the computer, onto the board

After having to offer its science classes online, Belfield Public School finally has a science teacher--Wade Pierson, a recent Dickinson State University graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry Education and a license in various science ...

Wade Pierson is Belfield Public School's new science teacher. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)
Wade Pierson is Belfield Public School's new science teacher. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

After having to offer its science classes online, Belfield Public School finally has a science teacher--Wade Pierson, a recent Dickinson State University graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry Education and a license in various science areas.

Prior to his arrival, all of his students were taking their science classes online with a substitute teacher to monitor them.

"When I came in December and observed the students before they went on winter break, I could tell that they were just doing what was being asked. I could tell they really didn't have an idea," he said. "It's an interesting experience, because science to me is hands-on. I'm a lab kind of guy. I want to get the kids in the lab, so that's what I've been trying to do."

In a recent lab, Pierson taught his 7th grade and 10th grade classes to use the microscope.

"My 7th graders--star students--other than the slides I was letting them look at, they were pulling hair," he said. "They were chewing nails off. They were scratching the skin and getting skin cells. They were a great class. They were thinking outside of the box."

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The 10th graders were more reserved, for which he teased them.

"My biology students were all like 'I didn't know I could do that.' I said, 'I didn't stop you. Use your imagination after you look at these slides.' ... That's what science is, using your imagination, thinking outside of the box, asking questions."

Prior to his arrival, students still had labs, but they were virtual.

"They were watching it happen," said Pierson, who is from Carson, North Dakota. "Watching is one thing, but we also have four other senses. We have feel, taste; we can smell; we can hear."

Based on what he observed in December and the recommendations of the superintendent and principal, he started from the beginning of the curriculum, reteaching what students should have learned last semester.

"My chemistry students said 'I've learned more from you than I did all last semester,' " he said.

Pierson teaches all of the secondary science classes: 7th grade life science, 8th grade earth science, 9th grade physical science, 10th grade biology, and two elective classes for juniors and seniors-chemistry and astronomy.

Having six different classes to prepare for is a challenge, Pierson said. He has two computers on his desk, and he does a lot of his planning at home. Fortunately, he acquired a lot of material from the teachers at Mandan when he student-taught.

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"My cooperating teacher gave me all of his chemistry files-everything that he has," he said. "A couple of the biology teachers gave me everything they have. My chemistry teacher also had physical science."

Pierson said he's always had a passion for chemistry as well as teaching. When he first went to college years ago in Rapid City, he majored in chemistry. He had a job lined up in Sioux Falls and was close to graduation, so he moved there. He found out he was short three credits and had planned to go back.

"By the time it was time to come back to school, we found out my wife was pregnant," he said. "There was no way I was going to leave her in Sioux Falls and go back to Rapid City. ... So life happened, and we made the best of it. That's where all my vast experience comes in."

He worked in entry-level positions in retail and transit and worked his way into management. Before going to school at DSU, he worked on farms for about 13 years with his father-in-law. In 2015, his father-in-law decided to retire.

"We, as a family-- my father-in-law, my wife and I--we thought about what is the future of the farm, and we just felt that it was best I pursue something else different," he said. "On the farm with my father-in-law, he had 40 some odd years of farming. He had me ... but I wouldn't have any hired men, and at that point we were farming roughly about 6,000 acres of land."

So he decided to combine two of his passions and teach.

"Teaching in a small school, I know I can use my agricultural background to help relate to most of the students, and that's what I try to do," Pierson said. "The rest of them, I try to relate because I've had vast experience."

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