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Maria Pompano understands that she's a little unusual-nothing gets her more excited than talking about science. As the science instructional leader for both East Haven high and middle schools, it is Maria's job to get her 18 science teachers and their students pumped up about learning science.
She, in her words, "loves the challenge."
"The trick," Maria says, "is to make learning science a hands-on, fun experience. Taking risks, and even failing a little, is a good thing-as long as you analyze and learn from your experiments and failures."
Maria knows what she's talking about, because besides supervising her high and middle school teachers, who she says range in experience from first-year instructors to seasoned veterans, she also teaches her own biology class at East Haven High School.
"As a new hire in the science department, Maria welcomed me in such a way that I immediately felt like I was part of the family at East Haven High School," says David Oshana, a first-year physical science instructor. "Her strong leadership skills clearly reflect her many years as a science teacher prior to becoming the instructional leader."
The technology-age we live in, Maria says, makes teaching science even more exciting than in the past.
"The mix of science and technology, together, can really make learning wonderful," she says. "There are just so many more resources out there for students today, due to the Internet, than the old days."
Maria has been in her current position in East Haven for about year. Before that she was the science department chair at Shelton Intermediate School.
"But when the East Haven position opened up last year, I knew this is where I wanted to be," says Maria, who was born in East Haven and still lives here with her husband, Ray, a physical education instructor in the New Haven school system.
Both the couple's parents also still are East Haveners.
Maria and Ray are parents of seven-year-old twins, Gennaro and Jianna, who both attend Deer Run School in East Haven.
"Some people don't want to teach in the town they live in," says Maria, "but that's not me. I like it. I like running into my staff and students when I'm shopping for groceries in town.
"It gives me a strong sense of belonging and commitment to the town in which I teach," she adds.
Maria was a biology major at Fairfield University, where she graduated in 1997. She received her sixth-year educational leadership certificate from Southern Connecticut State University in 2008.
Maria raises her eyebrows a bit when she is asked what she does in her spare time.
"What's that?," Maria says, laughing, noting that in between school, grading teachers and papers, she and her husband are busy shuttling the kids to different sports and recreational activities.
She does say that one of her hobbies is running?to stay in shape.
As far as favorite places to visit when she isn't in East Haven, Maria gave the answer most parents of twin seven year olds would give.
"We love Disney World," she says. "We go there each and every year."