Felicia Yu would love to take a road trip up the West Coast with stops in Ashland (for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. It’s no surprise that part of her dream vacation also includes “hitting up every major botanical garden along the way,” since she holds a master’s degree in horticulture.
“My dad said I was born to teach,” says Kerrie Snavely.
She uses those instinctive skills to teach 10-12th grade traditional biology and supported biology and freshwater biology at Conestoga Valley Senior High School in Pennsylvania. Since 2015, she has been instrumental in developing Concord Consortium’s popular Model My Watershed program, which her students use to explore biotic and abiotic factors within their local watershed. “Students can actually see how their everyday life affects the watershed,” she explains.
It’s not every day that a 9th grade student becomes enamored with pond scum. “The first time I saw a sample of pond water under a microscope,” says Rebecca Brewer, “I was hooked.” Until that time, she had never considered the microscopic world, but once she saw the “alien-like” critters swimming in that sample, she wanted to learn more. “That eventually transcended into wanting to share that thrill of discovery with others.”
How can something that can’t be seen crush a 67,000 pound oil tanker made of half-inch steel? That was the driving question Hudson High School teacher Erin Cothran asked her 10th grade chemistry class. “I can’t take full credit for the driving question based on the tanker phenomenon,” she laughs.
When Cassandra Muse was young, she struggled in school, but in fifth grade an inspiring teacher helped turn that around. “Mrs. Jutras was different than any teacher,” she recalls fondly. “She went out of her way to get to know her students on a personal basis, while creating positive relationships with each one. She spent her prep time building their self esteem in their academic abilities, and always found an engaging way to teach all types of learners.”
Ken Hawthorn started his career as a prototyping engineer working with early stage companies to develop proof-of-concept technologies: localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) in biotech to long-range electric motorcycles. After volunteering in an afterschool program to help academically and socially at-risk students, he discovered that engineering has a lot in common with teaching.
“I love the look of amazement and confidence when someone makes connections and understands what is happening,” says Stephanie Harmon, who’s beginning her 24th year in a high school classroom. She was named Kentucky Science Teacher Association’s Outstanding High School Science Teacher in 2014, and currently teaches physics and advanced physical science and Earth science at Rockcastle County High School in Mount Vernon, and introductory astronomy at Eastern Kentucky University.
Tara Eppinger is excited by the ways technology and online resources can change the way students learn and help them become better thinkers. She teaches high school biology and chemistry at Durham Academy in North Carolina. “Being able to watch biological or chemical processes occur—versus seeing static images in a textbook,” she says, “allows for a much richer and connected understanding of concepts,” she explains.
“Mrs. Bentley, how are you so smart?,” asked one of the kindergarten students in Laura Bentley’s class. Although she was embarrassed by the adoring question from this five-year-old, she knew that she was instilling a love of learning in her students.
Kristina Koster first became interested in teaching as a tutor for the TRIO Upward Bound program while in junior college. The program helps low-income, first-generation college-bound students get into and succeed in college by providing free afterschool tutoring, Saturday educational workshops, and college visits. Kristina recalls, “I was able to see that I could combine my love for helping people with my love for science.”