2013 National Teacher of the Year
STEM Teacher (Zillah High School — Zillah, WA)
January Contest: Win a Copy of Carol Jago’s With Rigor for All by emailing me a lesson that worked (email)
Segment I – Background and Inspiration
Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught?
Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher?
– Jeff asks for help about every 30 minutes. Yet, he had two outstanding cooperating teachers during his student teacher experience. They had completely different styles, one was traditional the other was affectionate and loving. Both were outstanding educators and what he learned was that you need to be true to yourself.
It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience.
– It seems like that sums up every day of teaching in his career. One experience that stands out was when he had a fish tank while teaching biology. They had trouble stabilizing the tank. And after being absent one day, he returned to see that the fish were dead. The tank had been smelling and in his absence one student thought it was wise to pour perfume into the fish tank. The worse thing he could have done was to yell at the student. No learning would come of that. Instead, he tries to stop and think about what is going on in their brains first before he reacts.
What role does literacy play in the science classroom?
– It plays a huge part. One colleague taught a Sci-Fi Literature class. Jeff has jealous at first but then realized that he could create similar experiences too, he just needed to find ways to make science come alive. For example, when teaching atomic theory he can have students read Neils Bohr. His students read a play entitled Copenhagen, about the 1941 meeting of physicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg.
What is one thing that you love about the classroom?
– Jeff loves being there at the moment of discovery. Students will work with difficult material and all of a sudden students will scream “I GET IT!!! I GET IT!!!” He thoroughly enjoys those moments that open their eyes.
Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies
What book do you recommend to a developing teacher?
— ParkerPalmer’s The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, 10th Anniversary Edition was a book that inspired him as an undergrad. A more recent book is Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator. He also recommends 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, which he used in a leadership class with students.
What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom?
–2 ways: 1. Place yourself where the students are. Get them to see you not just as a teacher. Let them see you working for their benefit of them. Go to the sporting events, be at the dances, stay after school. 2. Be a life-long learner. Be involved in your craft and show your students that you are watching the Discovery Channel or staying current in the latest science news.
Is there an internet resource that you can recommend which will help teachers grow professionally?
–Jeff has looked into Twitter in the past year to further his professional development. He participates in education chats like #ntchat (new teacher chat). What he likes about Twitter is that it connects you with people. Make Magazine is another place that he goes to for inspiration in the sciences.
What does good science writing look like?
– It depends on the assignment. A lab should have good technical writing (no comic sans font). Argumentative and analytical science writing should be descriptive and interpretative.
What science writing should be required reading?
— The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013, which is a series that comes out every year. It is important for students to see that science writing is alive and well. Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History is something that he uses in his Chemistry class. It is a tour of the periodic table in the form of stories. It makes science come alive.