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‘Busy from bell to bell’

For the past 15 years, the Catholic Business Network of Northern Virginia (CBN-NV) has honored teachers in the Arlington Diocese at an annual award banquet. In March, Dr. Michael Potter, a science teacher at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax and a parishioner of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna, was named Distinguished High School Teacher of the Year by CBN-NV.

Schools nominate teachers to receive the prestigious award.

Margaret Latessa, assistant principal and dean of faculty at Paul VI, said that Potter has a wealth of experience to bring to the job and he works to ensure the success of his students.

"He's very dedicated," she said. "He's the first one in in the morning and he stays after. He will give time to any student who needs it. He's busy from bell to bell."

She said it's Potter's experience as a surgeon and a doctor that makes him so valuable.

"His courses rival a college course," she said.

Potter received a master's in physiology from Wesleyan University in Connecticut and medical degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He practiced trauma and vascular surgery at Fairfax INOVA Hospital until his retirement in 2001.

Potter looked for a rewarding post-retirement career and thought teaching would be perfect.

"I come from a long line of teachers," he said.

His mother was a teacher and he was a clinical associate professor of surgery at Georgetown and a teaching fellow at Wesleyan. It was a natural move from practicing medicine to teaching biology.

He saw a job opening at Paul VI, and since he lived in Vienna it was a good commute.

One of Potter's dream courses is coming to fruition. It's a cyberscience program that will be taught online starting this fall. He's working with Paul VI science teacher Eileen Liberti to bring this course to Paul VI and the other three diocesan high schools.

The program consists of four stand-alone courses: microbiology, genetics, histology and physiology. The microbiology course will come online in September. In January the genetics course will be offered, and the last two courses, histology and physiology, will be available the following year. Besides the teaching element, the courses will have chat rooms and blogs.

Potter's discussing a dual-enrollment arrangement with Marymount University in Arlington.

He said the response has been good and students are already signed up for the inaugural class.

Potter said he teaches for two reasons: "First, it's the kids. Second, it's a moral imperative."

He said he had the opportunity to receive a quality education at all levels.

"You have to give back," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010