The Williamsport Area School District is bursting with exceptional educators, and high school anatomy and physiology teacher Arnold "Arnie" Betts is proud to be among them.
Now in his 33rd year of teaching - 19 of which were at the WAHS and 26 within the Williamsport district - the Williamsport native and WAHS graduate considers himself lucky to have the opportunity to teach at his alma mater.
Betts said he likes to provide a learning environment for his students that is fun as well as comfortable, but at the same time encouraging a good work ethic.
Williamsport Area High School teacher Arnie Betts teaches anatomy and physiology at the school. His students have dissected pig heads and removed bullets from them to study the brain.
Williamsport Area High School teacher Arnie Betts, center, is shown with some of his students.
"I like to consider my classroom more of a collegiate type of environment," he said. "I don't have assigned seats ... It's a give-and-take environment. I like the banter that can go on. But the students also know they are taking a course that is going to require a bit of work and they respond accordingly."
Betts has six sections of 25 to 30 students in each class. It is a class that is in high demand, and he said it is important to provide the students with the opportunity to experience more than just the brick walls around them.
"Each year I try to get my students to New York City," he said. "We see the 'Bodies' exhibit. The last two years I have been able to take them to a Broadway show to expand their horizons."
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He also said the district has been great to him, allowing him to bring items into the classroom, such as pig heads, in order to do major dissections and forensic work. The students can retrieve the bullets from the heads and study the trauma to the brain. Tony's Delicatessen also has provided him with specimens for his classroom.
Dr. Michael Allar, assistant professor of biology at Pennsylvania College of Technology, has opened the cadaver labs for Betts' students.
If the students choose to, they are able to see the inner workings of the human body, provided by experts and physician assistant students at Penn College, Betts said.
"I'm sitting in a position where I have been able to forge a classroom that I think has helped students down the road," Betts said. "The district has given me a lot of leeway to use some creativity in the classroom, providing great experiences for the students."
In addition to his full class load at WAHS, Betts also is an adjunct anatomy and physiology instructor at Penn College and teaches locally for Penn State when instructors are needed.
At Penn College, he teaches one class with a double lab of about 45 students every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening this semester.
He has taught at Penn College, off and on, since the early '90s, he said. He has a wide range of different types of students between his high school and college courses, but said he does not have to change his style much to accommodate them.
"I use the same approach (from class to class)," he said. "I like to use a lot of humor and innuendo. A lot of practical application. You temper it for your audience to achieve success. But for the most part, I have encountered that students are students."
Betts said he loves being a part of the learning process and providing students with the tools they need for a successful and enjoyable classroom atmosphere and experience.
"I enjoy when I hear 'wow, that was neat!' I enjoy the camaraderie that you can develop in a classroom that has good rapport," he said. "I enjoy seeing the lights go on and when students get excited about what they are doing. I don't care how old they are, because when you bring that out, you've won."
He said he also enjoys the cameraderie of his colleagues and has nothing but high praise and admiration for the tremendous educators that surround him on a daily basis.
"I teach with a lot of talented people," Betts said. "It's just amazing what you see around you sometimes that you take for granted. There are people in this building (the high school) doing remarkable things with students who need the guidance and direction, and I'm in awe of them."
Betts and his wife, Michele, have three children, all of whom have gone through the Williamsport district: Rebecca, 28; Timothy, 24; and Emily, 17; who is a senior at the high school.
"It's been a pleasure to watch them (his children) come through. It's been a pleasure to see their ups and downs, but I will miss next year, when I don't have a child of mine riding to work with me," Betts said. "It's something that many parents don't get a chance to do. School sometimes is that nebulous area that fills a void in that child's day, and I get a chance to see what they do, and that's kind of cool."
A lover of all things outdoors, Betts said he always thought he would have been a forester. He loves to fish, camp, backpack, bike ride and kayak - "just get me outside," he said.
In his younger years he was a Boy Scout and attended Scout camp every year. He remains active with the Scouts as a Boy and Girl Scout leader, and all three of his children have gone through the Scouting program.
"Over the past couple of years, I concentrated on helping with high adventure," he said. "I've taken Scouts backpacking in the Rockies twice at the Philmont Scout Ranch (in New Mexico)."
Last year, Betts took a Scout troop to the Florida Sea Base on a fishing excursion. He also has taught several of his Scouts in his classroom as well.
He has been involved with the WAHS Band Association for eight years and runs the Organ Donation and Transplantation Awareness Club (ODTA) along side Kathy Temple at the high school. The club was formed to raise awareness among the students about organ donation, which is a topic very dear to his heart.
"We (the club) took a field trip to Jessup to watch how they take human body parts and turn them into surgical advancements," Betts said. "Anything from correcting flat feet to inserts into the spine. The students got a chance to see the actual process from beginning to end ... And that's what I mean about being given the ability to broaden students' horizons."