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VALPARAISO — When Wheeler High School juniors and seniors walked into Dianne Langston's dual credit anatomy and physiology class Friday, the topic on the board said: "The Microscopic Anatomy of Skeletal Muscle."

The students are studying muscles and Langston wasted no time pointing out skeletal muscle is made up of many things including endomysium, epimysium, fascicle, fiber and myofilament.

She explained the meaning of the scientific words so students would remember. For example, endomysium means within the muscle; it's a wispy layer of connective tissue, while bundles of individual muscle cells are known as fascicles.

Langston said there are more than 600 muscles in the body and the students will learn about some, not all of them. The classroom had a couple of skeleton models for students to view up close and touch.

Langston's 16 students had a short quiz and a healthy discussion about the answers.

Senior Emily Tonello, who wants to be an attorney and is going to West Virginia University, defended her use of a different answer on a question about what happens when the skeletal muscles fully contract.

After Tonello explained her position, Langston gave her a point and said she understood the teen's reasoning.

"I really enjoy this class," Tonello said.

"Science was never a huge interest for me, but this class has given me a different perspective rather than just looking at a textbook all day. I find that it's more hands-on. We get to work on skeletons and dissect things. We've worked on a sheep kidney. It's super-exciting."

Senior Max Bebekoski, who plans to major in business management at Purdue University in West Lafayette, said being in the class has been a lot of fun and he's learned about things he never expected to enjoy.

"It's really spiked my interest in science. We've been studying muscles, and I couldn't believe there were so many things involved in just flexing your muscles," he said.

Langston said these lessons are readying her students for a spring visit to Purdue University Northwest Westville campus to see a cadaver. She said it's something students do each year, and they find it valuable.

Langston's students earn dual credit through Purdue University Northwest, giving them both college and high school credit.

Students, superintendent praise teachers

Some of the same students in Langston's anatomy and physiology class also are in Terri Anderson's Advanced Placement calculus class.

Union Township Schools Superintendent John Hunter said Wheeler's AP calculus students consistently perform well on the Advanced Placement exam because of Anderson's "energetic and authentic" instruction.

Anderson jokes with the students and talks them through the long formulas to get to the answer, and her classroom is busy and fun. Each year, students work on a calculus problem and convert it to sort of a graphic that's taped across a classroom wall. She also has an IU basketball hoop in her room.

"I used to use the basketball to teach kids how to do percentages," she said. "I don't use it now, but I keep it because I love IU basketball."

Juniors Brenna Lucas and Reece Holton said Anderson is a good teacher and makes students think.

"She will reach out to any student and help them out," Lucas said. "She makes you learn. There is no choice. She is often after school for hours helping students."

Holton said Anderson keeps everyone in line, and doesn't let them stray.

"You have to put 100 percent effort in. If a student is struggling, she'll call their parents and get them involved. You don't want that, so you always do your best. After school, there may be 10 or 15 kids in here for help. It could be kids in algebra or in trig in here for help. It doesn't matter; she helps everyone," Holton said.

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Education reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.