The Concord Consortium’s Teacher Ambassador program commemorates our 25th anniversary by recognizing 25 outstanding teachers who have included our digital inquiry resources into their STEM classrooms. We congratulate them on their innovation and creativity.
Tara Eppinger, Durham Academy, Durham, NC
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.
She started with Geniverse and now uses Geniventure to teach genetics. “The first year I used Geniverse, I felt like my world had been forever changed in regard to teaching the concepts of genetics to my students,” she says. “Geniverse allowed students to see all the processes—meiosis, alleles, fertilization, genotypes, and phenotypes—in action on the screen, making the relationship between these concepts much more visible.” She jokes that her students finally understood the concept of recessive alleles and that “genes don’t completely disappear and magically return.”
Tara has also used a number of our modeling activities and simulations to help students make sense of concepts and phenomena in both biology and chemistry: diffusion, solubility, bonding, DNA structure and function, intermolecular attractions, phase changes, membrane transport, and more.
“Teaching was definitely the right choice for me,” she says. “I haven’t had a dull day in my 17 years in the classroom.” However, it wasn’t always so clear. While in college she intended to get a Ph.D. in molecular biology and become a research scientist. Working in a lab for several months changed her mind. “I took some time to reflect on what I enjoyed doing and realized that the time I had spent teaching and coaching swimming had brought me the most joy and satisfaction.”
Even though her own school has been very supportive, she says, “There are so many things that teachers need in today’s classroom.” In particular, the opportunity to learn about and use new programs and curricula. “I might not have jumped into Geniverse had it not been for the online training module that introduced me to the program, and the lessons plans and implementation guidance.”
Tara is a long-distance runner (Boston Marathon twice; the top master’s female finisher in a half marathon last Thanksgiving—when she won a turkey!), so it’s no surprise that she takes the long view. She likes to watch students enter her class in August—students who don’t think they’re interested in science—end the year feeling very different.
Favorite ice cream: Cookie dough