Published Online: March 6, 2002
Published in Print: March 6, 2002, as Take Note


Take Note

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Golden Girls

For fellow students at Great Neck North High School in Great Neck, N.Y., watching Sarah Hughes outdo more highly rated competitors to snare an unexpected Olympic gold medal in figure skating last month was a thrill. For her teachers, though, that glimmer of gold was only the tip of the iceberg of what they want to help the 16-year-old junior achieve.

Sarah Hughes, the figure skater, has to deal with a training and travel schedule that often leaves Sarah Hughes, the student, with her schoolwork cut out for her.

"The thing about Sarah is that nothing can be a hard-and-fast schedule," said Patricia Hugo, the assistant principal at Great Neck North who also worked with the skater on her math skills for two years. "Her life changes, and what worked one year won't work the next."

The 950-student school tries to ensure that Ms. Hughes attends as many regular classes as possible. When she's on the road, though, much of her coursework is relayed through e-mail. She also works with her teachers outside school hours while she's in the United States.

To help her get the most out of her unusual learning opportunities, however, teachers often innovate.

When Ms. Hughes is performing abroad, for example, teachers may ask her to learn about the history of the country she's visiting, Ms. Hugo said. Or teachers may have her visit a museum to view the art that her fellow students are reading about.

She even explored the science of drug testing when she and fellow competitors were tested.

Even though it's hard to describe Ms. Hughes as a regular high school junior, Ms. Hugo says the skater has done very well despite the pressure.

"She's so analytical," the administrator said. "It's interesting to watch her because you can almost see her digest what she's learned and then take it apart."

—Marianne Hurst

Vol. 21, Issue 25, Page 3

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