Challenges & Successes

My Students Discover experience so far has been one filled with many challenges and successes.  Surprisingly enough, my team came up with lesson ideas with ease.  I think the nature of the project we’re working with really lent itself to grade-level-appropriate and content-related lessons, so we were certainly lucky in that regard.  I also have to give a shoutout to my team, while I’m on the subject.  We have a really great dynamic – Stephanie works really well with us non-science folks, helping to bridge the gap and teach us when we’re not sure what’s going on, really making the content accessible.  Lena is a seasoned teacher with great knowledge and experience about teaching.  Her background in elementary education and teaching AG has been really helpful when it comes to literacy and differentiation, which is something we’ve tried to highlight in our lessons.  Rachael has a background in science, so she has been really encouraging when we don’t fully understand the science we’re working with, and loves to get work done!  I’ve been lucky to work with such great teammates, and I can’t wait for the rest of our experience!

One of our greatest challenges was trying to incorporate ways to collect data within lessons, keeping them aligned with the standards.  We were able to think of great lessons using data that already exists; but, in order to help contribute to the eMammal Citizen Science project, we have to find a way to collect data in our lessons – or, at least in one lesson.  

Another challenge we’ve had has been making the data and lessons accessible to as many people as possible.  Because our study uses a very specific software program – one that is only available on computers, not on tablets or iPads – we are going to have to come up with ways to make the information accessible to teachers who may not have these technology resources.  The struggle has been productive, however, because we’ve been able to give lots of constructive feedback to the eMammal team about how to improve their website and make the project accessible to all.  

A Mutualistic Relationship

Dr. Stephanie Schuttler’s lab has implemented several Citizen Science projects.  In order for such projects to be successful, it is imperative for them to have willing citizens to participate.  The great thing about our partnership is that it gives Stephanie and her lab an automatic source of “citizens” – my students and me – to participate in Citizen Science projects.  

Stephanie has also already mentioned how helpful it is to learn about reaching the public and about teaching techniques from working with teachers.  Since she’s done this project several years now, she’s had quite a bit of time to work with all kinds of teachers, and it was clear that she had a talent for talking to non-scientists about science, helping to bridge any gaps that I was originally worried about when beginning my internship.  

Most obviously, my internship experience is helpful because I’ve been able to contribute to some of their projects, and I’ll be helping to promote the Citizen Science projects, making it accessible to teachers everywhere so that its influence can continue to spread.  And, of course, I’ll be helping collect data when I launch the camera traps with my students this school year.  


For me, this internship can help me grow as an educator in many ways.  As a new teacher, I was very focused on classroom management and simply learning how to navigate teaching, my school, and the school system in general.  While I obviously was teaching my science content on a daily basis, I was not focused on enriching the curriculum for my students or strengthening my own content knowledge.  This school year, I would love to put more of a focus on those two things, and I think this internship will give me a jumpstart in that direction.  

During my time as an undergrad, I remember several teacher mentors advising us to continue “doing” the content we teach.  For science teachers, that meant finding ways to engage in authentic science.  I’ve found that this is key to keeping one’s passion for science alive, even in the hustle and bustle of the school year.  I’m hoping that Kenan Fellows will be a way for me to stay engaged in authentic science, and also a way for my students to get engaged in authentic science – an incredibly valuable way of learning.  

As a beginning teacher, I’m also hoping that this will build my confidence as a teacher leader.  In fact, even just the NCCAT Conference itself has already done this in part.  It’s hard to feel confident, let alone to feel capable of being a leader, when you’re still figuring out how the whole teaching thing works, but I’d love to find meaningful leadership roles where I think I can truly make a difference and help my fellow teachers.  

NCCAT – A (very quick) Review

It’s incredibly difficult to choose ONE highlight of my NCCAT experience.  Already, this has been the most enriching, meaningful professional development experiences I have had in my short teaching career.  I’m almost worried that I’ve set the bar too high for future PD!  I’ll remember that for when I reach the point of my career where I’m creating and delivering PD….

I really enjoyed and learned a lot from our Kenan Fellows EdCamp.  This was the 3rd EdCamp I’ve attended, and certainly the most riveting.  I was almost overwhelmed with how many ideas and how much knowledge was being shared – I’m hoping that the notes I took will do the experience justice when I go back through them searching for ideas and inspiration during the school year.  I’ve never been with a group of such passionate, knowledgeable, talented educators – it was slightly intimidating as a new teacher, and certainly humbling to know that I’m among them.  My favorite session, and the one that I’m hoping to bring back to my classroom and my school at large was Paul’s session on creating independent learners using BYOD.  BYOD is a concept that I find intriguing, even more so now that I’ve seen how Paul has implemented it in his classroom not just to have technology for technology’s sake, but to grow independent learners.   

The whitewater rafting was another amazing experience for me, personally!  As someone who (thank you, Myers-Briggs test, for helping me realize this) is an introverted, planning type, experiences like this are not what I’m innately drawn to.  However, I really challenged myself to be in the spirit of Nike and JUST DO IT!  I sat in the front of my boat, where I got completely soaked, I ran across the troll bridge, and I even encouraged my boat to do some daring tricks.  Even if it’s indirectly, this is another experience I’ll be bringing back to my classroom – one that serves as a constant reminder that taking risks can result in awesome outcomes, that my students may see my classroom as a risk as great as I saw the whitewater rapids, and that teamwork really can make the dream work.  

Hopes and Goals

Going into my Kenan Fellows experience, I have a lot of hopes and goals.  As a soon-to-be second year teacher, I feel I have lots of room for growth.  One of my biggest hopes is that I connect both with other new/excited/risk-taking teachers as well as seasoned/wise/experienced teachers, all who, hopefully, share the same passion for teaching and learning.  

I think the shorter answer may be how could being a Kenan Fellow NOT elevate my teaching career.  So far, it seems like an experience that will be enriching in all aspects – ideologically, pedagogically, expanding and deepening my content knowledge, growing as a teacher leader.  The amount of potential growth from this experience is almost overwhelming.  

I’ve been on the receiving end of Kenan Fellow leadership and innovation this past year through my colleague and great friend, Taylar Flythe.  I’ve seen how she has used her experience to enhance her teaching, and also used it to help me enhance my teaching as well as to help other teachers throughout the school.  I’m hoping that my reach will have the same gravity that hers has.  I’d love to inspire other teachers to open their horizons, bring back ideas and energy that I could not have found elsewhere, and become a strong teacher leader at my school.