Grades 7-8, Science
Speyer Legacy School
Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges you’ve experienced as a teacher.
I have certainly been challenged to share my love for the natural world to New York City kids, when they do not have the same forests and fields, farm animals, and plants that I could access so easily in my childhood. Though I would love to get them further afield more, I have taken the challenge to face the Pigeon Paradox: The concept that the health of the planet may depend on the experience urban students have of nature in their own backyards.
Please share a special project or achievement that you are particularly proud of from this year.
With my grade 8 class, my most important accomplishment this year was to introduce them to Stuart Fierstein’s, books Ignorance: How it Drives Science and Failure: Why Science is so Successful, framing our study of evolution and genetics. These books, beautifully written with an engaging voice that students can relate to, introduce readers to key realities of the practice of science that most students do not encounter until they attempt their own research in graduate school. They complicate the simplistic tale of how science is often taught in schools by engaging the students in a much more nuanced, realistic, and fascinating picture of the process.
Over the course of your career, what do you consider your greatest accomplishments?
My two biggest accomplishments as a teacher are linked by having the wonderful opportunity to teach the same group of students over time, enabling all of us to develop the relationship to do excellent work together. Last year at Speyer, my work with the graduating class culminated in a full production of the play “Informed Consent” by Deborah Zoe Laufer, a rich exploration of the ethics of genetic research, the relationship between religion and science and deep humanity. This journey began when these kids were in sixth grade and read the play “Oxygen” by Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffman. I had read science plays with students in the past, but I never had a group that insisted that we actually perform one. We performed some scenes from the play as an experiment that came to full fruition three years later with our “Informed Consent” production.
What keeps you motivated and committed to being a dedicated and hard-working educator?
I am continuously pondering how I can teach better and how I can address big questions such as what do we need to teach students about science in order to be informed citizens? How can the gap between STEM fields and the humanities be bridged I use my classes as labs to ground these questions, in a hands-on way, and will never run out of questions to investigate!