I’ve wanted to work in education for as long as I can remember. My mom tells a story of me “teaching” our family cat before I would leave for preschool. This typically involved storytime (me reading to the cat) and a snack (mostly for me) and was lovingly called “Kitty-garden.” As far back as anyone in my family can remember, I was born to be a teacher.
Jump forward a few years (“few” meaning about twenty), and I was lucky enough to secure a summer job at Fontenelle Forest as a summer camp counselor. In this role, I taught a different summer camp each week with a fellow counselor – one week could be a group of third graders hiking through the forest all day, and the next week could be half-day preschool nature exploration. My supervisor in this role, Deborah Woracek, inspired our team, and myself especially, to love science education. We were taught how to ask important questions, and lead the children to ask their own. We had access to unbelievable resources (quite literally an entire forest) to engage and explore with the campers in an education experience of a lifetime. Most importantly, in my opinion, she taught me how to be okay not having all the answers. My favorite line to respond to a question I didn’t have the answer to is: “I don’t know – how can we all find out together?” Deborah taught me how to be vulnerable and inquisitive – and for that I am extremely grateful.
Because of this camp, and especially Deborah, I brought my love of inquiry to the classroom as a first grade teacher. All questions were valid, and all made the classroom community stronger. If I didn’t have the answer, which was more often than not the case, we discussed how we could find the answer and why it was important to “do the research.” I was a better science teacher because of Deborah Woracek. So during Teacher Appreciation Week, I’d like to say thank you to all informal science educators, but especially Deborah, who open the doors to a world (or forest) we can’t always find in a classroom.
Megan Doty is the e-Learning Engagement Specialist with the NSTA Learning Center.