BALDWIN — Nicole McGahey has a passion — science. Through her passion she has helped middle school students and currently high school students get excited about science for more than 20 years at Baldwin Community Schools.

"I teach chemistry, physical science; advanced placement environmental science; forensics, anatomy and physiology; and ninth-grade academy, in which I help a group of ninth-graders enhance basic science skills. The forensics, anatomy and physiology I teach every other year," McGahey said.

McGahey particularly enjoys teaching forensics.

"Forensics class is very hands-on, and students like that a lot," she said. "People might be surprised forensics in real life isn't like crime dramas on television — not even close. It involves a lot of lab time. When CSI became popular, schools began picking up forensics and at Baldwin, we were able to work the course in as an elective. Kids really enjoy the class."

McGahey has been teaching at Baldwin since 1994, and after teaching junior high students for nine years, she moved up to high-school students.

As a 1993 graduate of Ferris State University with a biology major and general science minor, she began student teaching in 1993 at Reed City Public Schools, working in the classrooms of Troy Guzikowski and Kevin Oxley.

Over the years she has developed methods of helping students learn science skills.

"We do a lot of hands-on projects and use a lot of real-life examples in my classroom. I use a lot of multi-media, such as showing students movies and having them pick out what is right and what is wrong using scientific principles they learn in class. I am very active in the classroom with moving around quite a bit and really engaging the students. I do lots of follow-up with students to make sure they are really understanding and moving along with the curriculum," she said.

Some of McGahey's favorite topics to teach are atoms, the periodic table, chemical reactions, parts of the body and forensics.

"With forensics, there is a lot of self-discovery for students," she said. "I guide them, but they figure what is going on for themselves. It is cool when they say, 'I finally get it.'"

McGahey, who is now teaching the children of students she taught years ago, said one of the most rewarding parts of her job is when students come back later in life and tell her they went to school for science-related careers. One of her past students currently is earning a Ph.D. in microbiology.

"Science offers a lot of skills. Even if students don't end going into a scientific field, they obtain skills such as persistence, which will help them in every field. Former students have told me college was easier because of the skills they have learned in my class," she said.

When McGahey isn't engaged in the classroom, she enjoys being a mother, quilting, reading, walking, geocaching and camping. She is looking forward to riding on the back of her family's new motorcycle.