National Science Bowl
Desert Vista team members Rudy Thomas Anderson, Rudy Chen, Brandon Djaja, Tyler Miyasaki and Coach Birgit Musheno will compete in the National Science Bowl starting April 28. [Submitted photo] Submitted photo

As a person who has had a life-long interest in sciences, specifically biology and astronomy, I always enjoy interviewing someone who works directly with the subject matter. I don't know whether or not they appreciate my bombardment of questions, but so far I haven't been told otherwise.

I have spoken with Desert Vista High School teacher Birgit Musheno on a number of occasions and I was happy to hear that she was named a top performer at her position in the state of Arizona due to her passion and hard work.

Interest in math and science is growing at Desert Vista. This is evidenced by an increase in statewide and national competitions dealing with the subjects, most of which are coached by Musheno, who teaches biology and biotechnology at the high school.

Musheno was named Teacher of the Year for the 2011 Governor's Celebration of Innovation, and was selected based on building the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program.

She said the award was based on getting students involved with STEM and also mentoring her fellow teachers.

"Those are both areas I worked hard in," Musheno, 50, said. "We did a lot of competitions in 2010-11 and it seems like it is just getting bigger and bigger. The more competitions we find out about, the more we want to do."

It was the most competitions teams from Desert Vista had competed in over the course of one school year. Teams from the high school competed locally and nationally in the Quiz Bowl and the Science Bowl. They took the top award in the Arizona Brain Bee and will be taking 20 students to the Health Occupations Students of America competition in Anaheim, Calif., this week.

"We have a lot of students at Desert Vista with interests in careers with medicine," Musheno said. "I think one of the biggest things is our students see it as very rewarding to compete against other students and see how their knowledge stacks up."

She said it amazed her how much of their free time students would devote to increasing their knowledge for these competitions. That is where the Internet is like a lifeline. If there is anything you want to learn about, there are answers to be found in cyberspace.

The students spent countless after-school hours, weekends and break time during school in hopes that they might learn one or two new facts that could be the difference.

"It is really rewarding to see them studying and then being successful at state level," Musheno said. "They get to see how all that effort paid off."

During their trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Science Bowl, which Musheno said they finished in the "middle of the pack," students would get advice from competing schools as how to come back and make a bigger impact next year.

"They saw how much hard work it takes to compete nationally and it is actually motivating," she said. "They asked them how they got so good when we were at nationals. These schools are powerhouse competitors and it's sort of a tradition at some of them."

It seems that Desert Vista is creating a tradition of its own and, with interest increasing, will continue to build upon that for a long time to come.

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