The Best Science Teacher You Never Had
Updated: Mar 4
Teachers are the first introduction to a student's educational experience, making their dedication to new teaching methods vitally important...
We've all had that same experience...walking into our elementary school classroom with our friends - loud and rambunctious as ever. If you're like me that high energy was a direct result of a glucose-rich diet that consisted of sugar sandwiches and Nerds. Yes, sugar sandwiches. Two pieces of white bread with granulated sugar in between...sometimes Strawberry Nestle Quik mix if I was feeling euphoric enough. By the time we entered high school, the loud, over-energetic traits turned into self conscious mood swings from our now realized insecurities.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it right? Well, it's been broke for generations and educators like Kelly Meade are resuscitating life back into the system like J-Cole when he dropped "Cole World: A Sideline Story".
One thing remained constant however. The authority figure in each room that dictated not only the lesson plan, but the level of fun that you were going to have on that given day. If only that authority figure had the same pizzazz and passion as Kelly Meade, maybe just maybe, our shared experience might have differed for the better.
For the sake of appreciation of the level of quality this woman brings to the classroom, I won't call her a teacher in this discussion, but rather an educator. A sharer of immense knowledge, a beacon of hope, a voice of enrichment to the masses. Even the Queen Beyonce herself would be jealous of such heaped praise.
Such a title is appropriate because what most of us grew up with, especially those from underserved communities, were teachers who came to the classroom just to teach. Teachers who had a wealth of knowledge in whatever title they were given and came just to explain the curriculum. It's hard to blame them because this was a systemic approach that they were taught themselves. If it ain't broke, don't fix it right? Well, it's been broke for generations and educators like Kelly Meade are resuscitating life back into the system like J-Cole when he dropped "Cole World: A Sideline Story". Thankfully, we won't have to wait on the sideline much longer.
How to Educate the Next Generation
I sat down with Kelly Meade one on one for the first time in years. Both of us attended the University of Washington in Seattle together around the same time, and had different paths that led us to where we are now. I find it heartwarming that science is what ultimately reconnected us. She teaches High School chemistry and Earth sciences in Long Beach Unified School District.
Her approach is honestly quite simple and almost seems like common sense. I picked up on a few that I would like to highlight:
Connect with the Students
Every child has different needs, different issues at home, different challenges in learning. The notion of throwing every child into a box and force feeding them the same lesson is a thing of the past. It's important to be dialed in with each individual and gain a strong sense for what they need and how to deliver it to them.
Be Consistent & Accountable
We expect student's attendance to be perfect. The same applies to teachers, but not in the "check my name off on the list" type of way. If a teacher comes and goes and new voices are the only consistent thing a young student sees, that connection goes right out the door. It was amazing to hear Kelly's story of a time when she was a long-term substitute, and a student peeped into her classroom a few days after she started. Kelly asked why, and the student's response was..."just wanted to see if you were still here, cause I didn't think you would". The importance of stability and consistency in a child's life is something that can't be taken for granted. If they believe that you'll be there for them to count on, they'll also exude that same Nipsey Hussle type of dedication.
Be an Example
If being a super educator isn't enough, Kelly is also a National Geographic Educator. The ability to not only teach her students about the world around us, but to also be actively involved in exploration on a hands on level is incredibly valuable. Her lessons also spill out of the classroom, with her students getting a chance to do citizen science work. For some that come from low income or underprivileged communities, this ability to affect the environments around them help take their understanding of the world to the next level.
Educators like Kelly are becoming that new introductory face into the world of S.T.E.M. that is proving to be of the utmost importance for the educational growth of the next generation. For a full recap of all the varying topics we discussed, check out the link below for the 3 part interview series. Kelly goes in depth on some of her exploratory work, tips for educators in the classroom, and also tests her knowledge of chemistry related rap lyrics!