Teachers, You Inspire Us

On this Labor Day Holiday, it only seems appropriate to give a huge shout out thank you to all the teachers. You INSPIRE US!

According to the Department of Labor:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

While many workers fulfill that particular requirement, teachers do that every day by inspiring their students. Teachers aren’t just the ones who work in the classroom, but also are paraprofessionals,  coaches, librarians, and yes, even parents. Everyone who works with students has the ability to have a positive affect on them. Sometimes you see it right away, and sometimes it doesn’t happen for many years. Regardless, some teaching moments and teachers in particular stay with us our whole lives.

That happened to me. I truly believe that I would probably not be a science author if I hadn’t had some amazing teachers in my life.

Here is my story:

 

I have always loved science! It captured my attention and imagination from a very young age. Luckily, I had parents who encouraged my love of science. Oh, and we also had a creek in our backyard. I spent many wonderful days exploring that creek, knee-deep in water, mud, and yes, sometimes frogs.

At the age of 9, I decided that I wanted to become a pediatrician. I didn’t really know how to do that until I stepped into my 7th grade science class and met a woman that would change my life. Her name was Susan Roth. And to this day (over 40 years later) I still remember my first day in that class. She had a full skeleton model in her classroom. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

 

And then there was Mrs. Roth, herself, a very outgoing, happy, encouraging teacher who was EXCITED about science. And most of all made science EXCITING for us!  She used the textbook only as a guide, but instead we focused on the most amazing experiments in her classroom. She encouraged me to study the creek water, really look at it. I did reports with my classmates on the microscopic creatures that we found in it. We mapped the entire creek throughout our little town. We studied its levels, how it moved, and discussed erosion affects from the floods we had occasionally.

We also worked with that skeleton, of course, studying all of the parts of the human body, the systems, and I  could even name all 206 bones!

The best part about Mrs. Roth was that she always encouraged everyone. This was in the 1970’s and it was unusual to have a female science teacher where I lived. Yet she fit in so well. I remembered one day telling her that I wanted to be a pediatrician and she didn’t laugh. She didn’t stop to say, um, that is a difficult road. Instead, she said, “Awesome! I know you’ll be great. You can do anything.”  Those words stuck with me.

In fact, about ten years later when I was nervous about applying to the U.S. Naval Academy, where I would eventually go to college, I remembered Mrs. Roth’s words. They gave me the courage to apply, get in, and pick chemistry as my major. After all, that was the degree you’d need to go to medical school back then.

Being a chemistry major is not easy.

Those of you that have taken even 1 chemistry class in college can probably agree. When you add the requirements of 2 years of math classes, 3 years of engineering classes, plus all of the naval ship classes, it’s a lot. I got bogged down in all of that work, and my grades were about middle of the road. My dream of becoming a doctor was slipping away.

And then I had another teacher, Dr. Joseph Lomax, he was my chemistry teacher at USNA. He knew how hard I worked in the class and that my grades didn’t always reflect the amount of effort I was putting in. He took the time to talk to me and to listen to my dreams about becoming a doctor. Having had it for almost 12 years, it was a tough dream to give up. He didn’t shrug it off, instead, he told me how I could take my gifts and use them in a different way.

He told me that  I had a gift for explaining difficult things in a way that students could understand. That I could take complex science and engineering ideas and turn them into easily understandable concepts. It was something not everyone could do, and that I’d make a wonderful teacher some day. He was right.

Those words Dr. Lomax said to me carried me a long way. In fact, you might say that they helped me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. At only 24 years of age, I could never have envisioned– all these many years later– that I would end up here, writing STEM books for children.

But when I look back, it makes total sense. I feel like I spent my whole life moving in this direction. Taking complex and unique STEM topics and turning them into exciting books for kids which, hopefully, will inspire them to love science and STEM as much as I do. I am very lucky to have a job I love. And I do it in the name of my teachers.

I’ve dedicated two of my books to my teachers. For Mrs. Roth, I dedicated my Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System book

 

“To Susan Roth, my 7th grade science teacher, who opened my eyes to the amazing intrigue and adventure that the world of science has to offer. She is my true Science Super Hero.”

 

 

 

 

And to Dr. Lomax, I dedicate my new chemistry book, ” Thank you for believing in me and helping me to see how my gifts in STEM can be used to inspire others as yours have done for me.”

 

 

 

 

In fact, all of the amazing things I’ve been able to do as a STEM author can be traced back to their encouraging words. I wouldn’t be there without them. (And my AWESOME family, too, of course).

     

 

I realize that this year is particularly difficult for all who are teaching. Unusual circumstances have changed the way things normally work.  And yet, I know you are all doing your best to continue to make those personal connections. Students won’t forget that.  When they reach a time in their life when they need a voice to tell them, “You can do it”, it just might be that of a special teacher who believed in them.

HUGS to all of the amazing teachers out there and THANK YOU for what you do for us. We appreciate it!

Enjoy your holiday. You deserve it.

 

And in honor of my two amazing science teachers, I am offering a giveaway of these two books as a pack.

 

I’ll pick 3 winners. To be entered, leave a comment below about a teacher who inspired YOU. OR if you are a teacher, let us know about the kids YOU inspire every day. 😀

 

Jennifer Swanson on FacebookJennifer Swanson on Twitter
Jennifer Swanson
Science ROCKS! And so do Jennifer Swanson's books. She is the award-winning author of over 40 nonfiction books for kids. Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, you can find Jennifer at her favorite place to explore the world around her. www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com
Jennifer is also the creator and administrator of #STEMTuesday and #STEAMTeam2020
17 Comments
  1. Congrats to Jeane, Jennifer Hooper, and Debra. You are the winners of the books. Look for an email from me with details. Thanks to all for sharing your wonderful stories about your inspiring teachers and/or thank you for being that inspiring teacher for your students!

  2. As a middle school librarian, I know I would thank my English teacher from high school. Had her all four years. (only 58 kids in my class…small town) She inspired us to read everything. Every quarter, we had a book we read as a class and then one we read on our own. Our choice..except it had to be on her list. There was a list for freshman, sophomores, juniors an seniors. We could read up but not down. She had tests for every title. Can’t even imagine the work that she put into doing that. And one during the year had to be a Shakespeare. And she took us on college visits. Loved her..we all did. Mrs. Pence.

  3. My 4th grade teacher english teacher she taught me so much about writing and recognized that i had a talent & passion for it. Because of her, I love to write & I’m so much better at expressing myself through writing than I would have been without her. She made a huge impact on my life.

    • Anitha, that is so cool! So glad your teacher had a huge impact on your life. Aren’t teachers awesome?

  4. My high school history teacher inspired me. He taught us about bias and encouraged us to interpret past events through our own lens. The essays I wrote for that class vastly improved my writing skills. Then I was fortunate to have an incredible supervisor in graduate school. She inspired me to explore biology in new ways and to embrace my enthusiasm. It’s okay to be a scientist who loves and names her subjects!

  5. My third grade teacher changed my educational life by showing me how to just relax and allow myself to apply my acquired knowledge to solve problems. I never thought about a test or quiz the same way again and knew I could be successful as a student. This was an amazing lesson to have received at an early stage of my education and I’ve never forgotten.

    • Danielle, that is a powerful tool to have — not being stressed about tests. Awesome!

  6. My students are so excited to go back to school tomorrow. They have been through a lot these last 6 months, yet have stayed positive. Their positivity insipires me to be a better teacher. I look forward to the challenges this school year will bring, and hope to incorporate the hands-on learning I have grown used to. Kids work better in groups, with manipulatives, and lessons they are interested in, we must all stay positive and do what is best for our kiddos.

  7. A college professor was the one who inspired me. I always hated history until I took her class as a semi required elective. She was so engaging and so amazing that it made me realize I missed out on so much of the critical history I just memorized to get through the test my whole life. She went on to become the first female president of Harvard. And to this day I love reading history study in history and I owe it all to her. Her name is Drew Gilpin Faust.

  8. Thank you for your kind words. Thank you for your clear and understandable word that you send out to the world.

    What is chemistry? Chemistry is making and breaking bonds. What are bonds? Bonds are stable. Chemistry is connections made and in the broadest and truest sense, you make chemistry.

    A big Navy BZ (job well done).

    • Thanks Dr. Lomax! So glad to have connected with you. GO CHEMISTRY! 🙂

  9. I teach a 4th/5th grade class. This year we are starting the year online. My students are awesome! I love how they are persevering to learn from home. It’s been so fun seeing their pets and baby siblings that they share in our Zoom meetings.

  10. I am a retired teacher and I guess my favorite memories are of the “a-ha” moments and tremendous growth for many students over the years. I really want to send out a big thank you to the teachers who are working right now under really difficult and challenging circumstances during this pandemic. I know they are as dedicated as always no matter what the situation is. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Duh…forgot to say please enter me in the drawing for these books. Totally need the Solar Sytem. Chem book goes to 7th grade science nerd/robotics nerd, my brilliant Niece, Bella. Maybe she can help me🤣.
    See ya!

  12. Thank you for sharing this inspiring back story and a bit more about yourself. I get what you are saying about Teachers, and I hope they take your story to heart and realize what a life changing effect it can have on a child. I too benefited from supportive parents that encouraged me to teach & write music, and from several music teachers who saw I was passionate and had a talent. that could be developed and shared. I got to thank them in a song, New School, for changing my life. Just one teacher reflecting back a student’s dream & encouraging it can truly be life changing. I really loved this post Jen.

    Now…..ahem……you know me enough by now Jen, to know that I am serious about writing STEM/STEAM songs (one coming out next week!), and this part of your post is EXACTLY why I want to use music with Science….. “ He told me that I had a gift for explaining difficult things in a way that students could understand. That I could take complex science and engineering ideas and turn them into easily understandable concepts.”. I have had trouble doing this all my life, My brain melts reading scientific papers and books, though I still get a little something out of it. But I always come away feeling like I wish there were “White Papers for Dummies.” Like I missed how they fully got to the conclusion,

    For those of us who admire and enjoy science but struggle with complex data, surely there has to be a way to break down these facts into understandable concepts….. oh wait! There are all these STEM books that are now getting better at teaching Ss to break down, question & challenge scientific concepts. Why not utilize every way and mode possible to leave Ss with data they might remember long-term when their flash cards and glossaries become science songs? I started doing that w/my son when he was ill (Crohn’s) & needed homeschooling for 3 yrs. I also used it with classes that I worked in. It works. Not every kid wants to sing, but Flocabulary proved you can put learning to RAP, and still learn and have fun.

    Not all science will be complemented by songs, but a heck of a lot of it screams for it, in my experience & opinion. There are lots of kids’ songwriters who have even done the work already & all you have to do is choose the perfect song.

    If it makes you feel better (honored) Jen, you are in a very small group of Science authors who I feel have the perfect ability to break down science concepts that translate to songwriting. That is how you get so lucky with my monthly HEY JEN posts. We already wrote the music for “Doing the Metamorphic Rock” from your book, but the words come more slowly. Still trying to pick what is most impt. This is where a Science Teacher & scientifically inclined Ss would also rule.

    Have a great week, Jen, thanks for listening, and I won’t bug you again, at least for the next few weeks😆. I’m always happy to accept poems or data turned into lyrics, too. You know I am one of your biggest fans.

    Stay well!

    Peace,

    Annie🎶

  13. I am a teacher and my students inspire me everyday by overcoming hardships to become great students. I have students of very different backgrounds. It’s always amazing to watch them reach that “ah-ha” moment and get excited about science.

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