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Wise ideas for teaching science in schools

Hallsville Middle School instructor Susan German shares insight after 20 years of teaching
Susan German advises new K12 teachers to create a network of colleagues at the NSTA conference.
Susan German advises new K12 teachers to create a network of colleagues at the NSTA conference.

Susan German is a science teacher at Hallsville Middle School in the Hallsville School District, northeast of Columbia, Missouri. German, named the NSTA’s distinguished teacher in 2011, teaches eighth-grade science. During her 20-year career, German has taught science and math in grades 6 through 12.

We asked her for words of wisdom.

Q: What do you want to teach differently in your science curriculum in 2017?

A: I have been revamping my lessons to capture the three dimensions of science education: disciplinary core idea, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. This has proven to be an interesting challenge to me because I find achieving all three to really improve student learning.

The students are more engaged because I provide lessons that have challenges for them to work through that are interesting. Also, I am more apt to use everyday phenomena as anchors for student learning. I hear, “I have often wondered how that worked and now I know. Thanks, Mrs. German.”

Q: What’s one piece of advice you have for new science teachers?

A: Think about weaknesses you may have in your teaching and use that to determine your schedule at the NSTA conference. Over schedule yourself with more than one selection per time slot. That way, if a presentation is not meeting your needs, you can immediately head to your next selection in that time slot.

Don’t be afraid to talk to others while you are at the conference and network. I was timid at first, but creating a network of colleagues was one of the best decisions I could make.