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Gainesville High School teacher named geographic society fellow
Educator to attend New York symposium
Gainesville High Ninth Grade Center AP Human Geography teacher Sandy Rivera will be attending the American Geographical Society fall symposium in November in New York. Only 50 high school teachers in the country will be attending the symposium.

Sandy Rivera is teaching AP human geography — and an advanced placement course — at Gainesville High School for the first time.

She will be one of 50 teachers who attend the annual fall symposium as an American Geographical Society teacher fellow.

The symposium will be at Columbia University in New York City in November, and its theme is “envisioning a sustainable planet.” It is the third year of a multi-year effort to discuss trends that will reshape the geography of the planet by 2050.

The AGS was founded in 1851. It is the oldest geographical organization in the U.S.

The AGS fellows program is in its initial year — as is Rivera in the subject.

She is in her 16th year of teaching and fifth at GHS. She also has taught world and U.S. history, journalism and government.

Rivera said she was “very nervous” when she was first asked to teach the course. She trained for advanced placement at the University of Georgia this summer — 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a week, she said.

She saw the program mentioned on a Facebook page for human geography teachers, Rivera said. It required an application and essay to apply, which she did, plus a letter from her principal.

Human geography, she explained, is how human activity affects or is influenced by the earth — a broad topic. It is “the space around us and how we interact with it,” she said.

Rivera said the subject has a “tremendous” effect in the Gainesville community. She noted the poultry industry has resulted in a large migrant population here, which has rippling effects.

The cultural and political effects, she said, “are so relevant to today.”

Careers in geography are growing dramatically, Rivera said.

“Geography has become such a big industry in the workforce, in the world, with the advent of GIS,” she said.

As an example, she said, with human geography and computer programs, researchers at the CDC can study data about diseases and outbreaks of diseases.

She also noted that the refugee crisis is much greater than the current news topic about the Middle East. The world has 65 million refugees now, she said.

Rivera said the symposium fellows will help geographers with a database and work “with the latest trends in geography.”

In addition to teaching, Rivera has a business background. She worked for an audiovisual company for 20 years, she said, in human resources and finance.

She said she left that because she “wanted something more challenging and rewarding.”

Rivera said teaching “is a lot more difficult” than her business job.