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Teacher Spotlight

Teacher Spotlight: Wendy Frazier

Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe, Texas

Describe your pathway from being a university professor to a high school science teacher? How did the process impact your teaching career? Was there a seminal event that encouraged you to teach high school? Had you taught high school before working at the

I began teaching full time in 1994 at J. Frank Dobie High School in Pasadena ISD, a district outside Houston, Texas. I taught mostly biology, but also anatomy/physiology, physical science, and health.
After receiving my doctorate in science education from Teachers College-Columbia University in 2001, I began teaching future and inservice science teachers at the university level and enjoyed this opportunity to delve more deeply into research on teaching methods that best meet the needs of K–12 students.

On May, 18, 2018, a horrific event occurred in a local high school, Santa Fe High School, in Santa Fe, Texas, outside of Houston in Galveston County, Texas. While watching the scene of heartbroken parents and students unfold on my television, with a pain in my chest, I knew that I was being called to serve the community of Santa Fe by providing the students and faculty with encouragement and love, providing compassionate thoughts, and to support the emotional, as well as the academic success, of the students and faculty.

I understood that what I had been telling my university students throughout the years would now be truly challenged: Our calling as teachers is to “teach children,” not to “teach science.” My students need stability for them to be able to learn. They need to feel safe before they will accept the academic challenges I plan for in my classroom.

Though I appreciated the opportunity to influence the practice of many teachers during my university teaching days, I had been missing the day-to-day energy that a high school provides. Now that I have made the move, some days are crazy, some days I’m exhausted. I learn from my students every day, and most days they learn as well. I would never wish for anything else and am grateful I returned to high school teaching—I love teaching at Santa Fe High School—my students are my heart.

Describe your school and classes.

I teach at Santa Fe High School, halfway between Houston and Galveston, Texas. I teach all ninth-grade biology and I love my students dearly.

What are some of the resources you use for ideas and inspiration?

I rely on my colleagues for a lot for resources. Some resources include PhET simulations, NSTA’s magazine library, and TEKS resource center provided by my district and state.

Talk about your teaching methods. In what ways do you encourage innovative thinking in your classes? How do you keep everyone engaged?

I really like it when I am able to help my students draw connections between what they are learning and current events. I also prefer to use the 5E model where students learn through inquiry and hands-on learning experience.

What’s the one project that you’ve always wanted to do but have never been able to, due to lack of time, money, etc.?

This spring I really would like to have my students run a gel and interpret their findings! I think I’m going to be able to work that out and am so excited for them to experience it! It will be a first for me to run a gel with high schoolers. It is now much cheaper to do than it was in the ’90s and it is very clearly built into the curriculum guidelines now.

What do you feel is the most important big-picture takeaway for your students? If nothing else, what one thing do you want them to learn?

Respect yourself, respect others, and respect the environment. These are my class rules.

Describe a time a student impacted your life.

I am impacted all the time by my students—I love it when they laugh. I love it when they ask me to do the plasma membrane dance once more or to act like a paramecium while waiting for the pep rally to start. I love it when I see them be kind to one another.

How do you teach media literacy with your students and why do you think it is critical in the times we live in.

Media literacy has been one of the most challenging aspects of teaching in high school now versus in the ’90s. Students are bombarded with messages from social media. In fact, my students view and use the internet as if the whole thing were social media.

I look at a news site and I read the article. For the same news site, they first go to the comments and make a comment before even reading much more than the title and perhaps a sentence or two. I find that I need to be very specific in my instructions. I also tend to have students rely on web-based news resources that are available inside our protected technology environment.

What is the most memorable project/lab/activity that you do with your students that they will remember when they are 80 years old?

This year we made biospheres—it was hard to keep my students from opening their jars. We used a variety of plant life, sludge and water from local water sources including horse troughs (!), invertebrates, like snails, and vertebrates, such as minnows. Students were challenged to plan and implement a biosphere capable of recycling everything life would need to survive and flourish inside the bottle. After many, many observations students decided there were some instructions that they would want to leave for future ninth graders.

Topics

Careers New Science Teachers

Levels

High School

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