EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 17, 2013

Shaheen honors Salem teacher

Lessons learned at sea could be useful in Congress

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM — Maybe members of Congress should learn a few lessons in teamwork from Woodbury School teacher Michele Brustolon.

That’s what U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., did.

Shaheen stopped by Brustolon’s eighth-grade science class yesterday morning to visit the veteran teacher and her students. The former governor walked away impressed.

Shaheen wanted to meet Brustolon after hearing she was only one of three teachers from across the country chosen to give a presentation last month at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History.

“I was really impressed to see them honor Ms. Brustolon,” she said. “I really wanted to come down and find out what things she is teaching you in class.”

Brustolon, chosen from approximately 300 teachers, was invited to Washington, D.C.. by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to talk about her experiences as a participant in its Teacher at Sea program.

“It seemed like she became a big celebrity overnight,” said student Jacob Attarian, 13.

In 2010, Brustolon spent three weeks aboard the research vessel, Oscar Dyson, studying walleye pollock in the East Bering Sea off Alaska. She worked 12-hour days, researching the health of the pollock population, a key component of the fishing industry.

“This particular fish we need to watch how much we are fishing because it is used so much,” Brustolon said.

It was an experience that had a big impact on the nine-year Woodbury teacher, who was most impressed by the teamwork on the 39-passenger ship.

It was those lessons in teamwork that she brought back to the classroom, telling her students — and Shaheen — how everyone on the ship pitched in to accomplish their mission. Whether they were crew members, researchers, engineers or cooks, they came together as one to get the job done, Brustolon said.

“It was just neat to see how everyone worked together,” she said

Brustolon, 39, incorporated what she learned at sea into her curriculum, which includes studies of the weather and other outdoor projects the students will undertake this spring.

When Shaheen asked the 15 eighth-graders what they have learned from their teacher’s trip, Sean Hazelton and Rosemary Trahan mentioned the importance of teamwork.

“It didn’t matter what you did,” Sean said. “They all worked together.”

Shaheen said that is a lesson many of her colleagues in Congress need to learn, especially as they try to avert a long-term financial crisis that could lead to what the senator called devastating, automatic budget cuts.

“We need to get along better,” she said. “It’s important to have people in Congress working together to get things done in the country.”

Shaheen said although lawmakers avoided the “fiscal cliff” when they reached an agreement New Year’s Eve, a long-term resolution is needed.

“It’s a big deal and we have to work together to get it done,” she said.

Shaheen said the research conducted by Brustolon is similar to efforts being made to protect cod stocks off the New Hampshire coast. She encouraged the students, especially the girls in the class, to think about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“So many jobs in New Hampshire have skills that require those subjects,” she said.