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Lamb’s career as a teacher began with a word from her mother

Sylvia Lamb incorporates real-world biomedical science careers in her classroom through crime scene and disease research.

She teaches biomedical science to students from both Vicksburg and Warren Central high schools at the Vicksburg Warren Schools Career and Technical Center located at Hinds Community College. Lamb has been nominated for the Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year honors.

The biomedical science course is offered through Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit organization that creates STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — curricula.

“It’s project-based, hands-on, high-level thinking, wonderful curriculum,” she said. “The lab is courtesy of Hinds Community College, this is a state of the art lab. The materials and supplies come from the Mississippi Department of Education, and the district (VWSD) provides me as the teacher.”

Lamb starts her classes off with a mock crime scene. The entire scene is set up in an outdoor corridor of the school with police tape, a body and other items around the person that could be clues to his or her death. Students work throughout the year to discover what happened to the person who died.

“We learn all our biology concepts in relation to the mysterious death,” she said. “Students learn problem solving and cooperation as they work with classmates to answer their own questions as to the manner of death and the motives surrounding it. This lesson exemplifies my belief that creating relevance invokes deeper, more meaningful learning.”

In addition to the crime scene, students also learn about life after high school by researching more than 25 biomedical field careers. In their research, students discover the careers’ salary, job responsibilities and education or training required.

“They must be balanced in their reporting by finding at least one positive and one negative about this career,” she said. “They get very excited when guest speakers come that are in the professions they have researched.”

Lamb encourages her students to do their work, even if that work is past due. She wants students to know, in the real world work doesn’t go away when it’s not completed.

“It is just worth less, but not worthless as time goes on,” she said. “This encourages students to keep up with their work and persevere in their efforts for learning.”

Lamb said she worked in retail management for 15 years before she started her teaching career. She switched professions when her son went to school, and she realized she was only seeing him one day ever two weeks because she worked weekends.

“(I realized) this is not the lifestyle I want,” Lamb said. “My mother said, ‘Why don’t you teach?’ and it echoed in my head like dropping a stone in a pool.”

Teaching is in her family as her maternal grandfather was a speech professor for 45 years at Louisiana State University, and her paternal grandmother was a first grade teacher for 40 years, not to mention all her great aunt and uncles who also taught.

“There is a strong family tradition for education,” Lamb said.

Her favorite teacher in high school was her physics teacher, which helped spark her love of the subject. Lamb graduated from Pineville High School in Pineville, La. She has her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Louisiana State University and her master’s in secondary education computer science from the University of Louisiana Monroe.

Lamb has taught for 25 years. Her career started at Cornerstone Academy in Baton Rouge, La. where she taught chemistry, physics and French to high school students for one year.

She then moved to Tallulah where she taught junior high and high school science and French for 10 years. Lamb taught at All Saints Episcopal School in Vicksburg for four years before teaching chemistry and physics at Vicksburg High School for 9 years.

Lamb moved to CTE two years ago.

“I teach because I love seeing my students’ faces light up in wonder,” she said.

She is the first Project Lead the Way biomedical certified teacher in the state of Mississippi, and she is also certified to teach advance placement physics and chemistry.

Twenty-one teachers in Warren County were nominated for teacher of the year. The Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce has selected a panel of educators to interview each school’s chosen teacher and will choose one elementary and one secondary teacher of the year on Feb. 15. Both teachers will receive $1,000.

Today’s story is the 19th in a series of articles on each teacher up for the honor of the Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce’s Teacher of the Year.