Deborah Gaff, who resigned her full-time science teaching job during the summer, is back as a part-time teacher and academic team leader at Hauser Jr./Sr. High School.
The beloved educator had left the school corporation in June to accept a position with the Bartholomew County Library, where she still works today; however, she had expressed a willingness to remain involved with the competitive teams she loved.
This month, corporation leaders hired her back to teach eighth grade classes that include Gateway to Technology and computer programming. They also put her back in charge of Science Olympiad and the other academic programs she initiated.
"The only reason I left in the first place was because I had an offer from the library that was too good to pass up," said Gaff, whose conducts science-related programming there as part of her responsibilities. "I certainly didn't leave because I was unhappy."
She said she told Superintendent Shawn Price at the time that she would love to continue working with the school system programs if he needed her. The summer was winding down, she said, when Price called to invite her back to Hauser.
The academic programs require a lot of work.
Under Gaff's leadership, students gather during school resource periods, after school and on weekends to prepare for science competitions.
An eight-member team from a Project Lead the Way class was named "Best in State" in the 2015 Verizon Innovative App Challenge for creating "Speak Bot Pro," an app that would let students who can't speak clearly in the classroom because of medical or language barriers use icons to communicate verbally with teachers. Despite competition from much larger schools, Hauser was the only middle school in the state to garner the distinction, and one of only two state schools to do so overall.
Science Olympiad was another success story. Hauser teams finished fourth in 2016 and first in 2017 in regional tournaments, which brought together schools from around the area to compete in various science events. In state competitions that followed, the local team finished in 32nd place and 25th place, respectively. Gaff had said at the time that her goal was to continue improving from one year to the next so eventually the team would finish in the top five statewide.
"I love everything about Hauser," Gaff said. "Especially the students."