Celebrating more top science teachers
Fremont Middle School science teacher Emily Loerakker had a pretty simple reason for wanting to be a teacher -- she had some wonderful teachers when she was in school.
"They helped spark my interest in science and made learning exciting and fun," said Loerakker, who has been teaching for 19 years, including 13 in Fremont Elementary District 79.
In the classroom, she said she loves seeing the spark in a student when they discover something new or achieve a goal they've set for themselves. She said the age of technology has opened many doors in communication.
"Students can interact with experts and others across the globe," Loerakker said. "It also affords us a way to get students extra help or enrichment."
Q. What drew you to teaching, and particularly teaching science?
A. I love the hands-on, doing aspect of science. Students make new discoveries as they interact with the subject, and I try to include real-world application in my learning activities.
Q. Teaching science would seem to have more opportunities for interactive learning than most school subjects. What are some of the ways you get your students involved hands-on in your classroom?
A. One of the easiest ways to include more hands-on learning is through observation. I try to take hands-on activities to the next level by developing problems to test with students.
The Next Generation Science Standards also lend themselves to a more hands-on demonstration of mastery. Students are often modeling, supporting with evidence, and testing variables.
Also, the engineering standards ask that students develop prototypes using design criteria and test the prototype to observe if it meets the criteria.
Q. Experimentation is a key part of scientific learning. What has been one of your students' favorite experiments, and what lessons did they learn from it?
A. Students enjoyed a design challenge on density this year called "Save the Animals." They had limited supplies and budget and had to apply to the concept of density to keep a toy animal floating in water for at least 5 minutes. The creativity and application of science were amazing and totally worth the time spent in a more student-centered activity.
Q. Given the ever-evolving nature of science, how do you keep up with the latest developments in the subjects you teach and then incorporate new discoveries into your lessons?
A. I follow a number of different publications on social media. I am also an avid listener of public radio and subscribe to podcasts. I also appreciate that our school district encourages us to attend professional development opportunities in our subject area.