Susie Geurin prefers to teach outside of the classroom.
For the past 19 years, Geurin has taught elementary-school students about the world around them. Her Forest Grove Elementary School classroom walls are plastered with maps of Virginia, the United States and the world.
"We cover 400 years of geography in the fourth grade," Geurin said. "I try to emphasize geography throughout the year."
In order to make it easier for students to remember what they learn in her classroom,
Geurin takes her students on field trips throughout the county and the state.
"Some of my students have never been outside of Sterling," she said.
And she'll do whatever it takes to make it stick.
For example, Geurin created "Mr. Help," to remind her students of the five themes of geography: location, place, human and environment interaction, movement and region. Geurin drew a stick figure on a large white sheet of paper and assigned a theme to the head, hands and feet.
"I'll do whatever it takes to get them to remember," she said.
The Forest Grove Elementary School fourth-grade teacher received the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) Distinguished Teaching Achievement Award for 2006, because of her passion for teaching students what lies beyond the Sterling school's walls.
The NCGE was chartered in 1915 to promote geographic education and has 3,200 members.
Geurin received the award at its annual meeting in October, in Lake Tahoe, Nev. She was nominated by the Virginia Geographic Alliance, for which she has presented numerous geography workshops.
GEURIN ALSO PARTICIPATED in the first Transect Virginia, sponsored by James Madison University. The program allows Virginia teachers to travel to and study the state's five regions, to better teach about Virginia in their classroom.
"I want to make my students aware of the world," she said. "Many of my students don't get out of Sterling."
Geurin said with the help of her principal, Nancy Torregrossa, she is able to take students on field trips to places like Jamestown, Harpers Ferry and Gunston Hall Plantation in Mason Neck, Va.
"It's important to expose children to different places," she said. "It's hands on learning."
In addition to field trips, Geurin takes the time to do crafts with her students. She has displayed "corn husk dolls" her students have made out of corn husks and tiny pieces of fabric around her room.
"We do all kinds of things like this through out the year," she said.
Hands-on learning, she said, helps students better grasp what was going on in different parts of the world at different times.
"And they have a lot of fun," she said.
THE SCHOOL BOARD recognized Geurin at a meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 5.
Geurin's husband, School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling), said he is very proud of her and her ability to share her love for geography.
The fourth-grade teacher and a handful of Forest Grove Elementary School students took center stage at the meeting, to sing a song about the seven continents to a familiar tune.
Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick said Geurin's work is growing more important because "we live in a shrinking world."
"Many of your students will live in a different country," he said.
"You are exactly what we want in Loudoun County," School Board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) said.