Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S., Marine Science; Master's of Arts in Teaching
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Noyce Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
University of North Florida
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Mandarin High School, Duval County (FL) Public Schools, Biology (including AP, Honors, and AICE)
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I like to tell people I “fell into” teaching. While I was working as a fisheries technician intern in Alaska, I slid off a cliff and dropped into a rocky riverbed. I was fine, aside from a sprained ankle. My team believed it would be best if I temporarily relocated to educational outreach projects at a nearby visitor center, and I fell in love. I really enjoyed finding ways to introduce new experiences to people of all ages, languages, and walks of life. The following year I applied to the Jacksonville Teacher Residency with the idea of becoming an educator full time.
Describe your current teaching assignment.
I am thrilled to work at Mandarin High School. My administrative team has been very supportive, offering community outreach opportunities for teachers, students, and other stakeholders alike. My favorite opportunities have been the “Adopt A Teacher” program, “Thanks a Brunch” New Teacher Orientation, and the “Mustangs 5k,” which is a run dedicated to our athletics department. I am so thankful that at every school I have worked, the administration has really tried its best to support its teachers and students.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
The University of North Florida’s (UNF) Jacksonville Teacher Residency Program was a great experience. What makes it so worthwhile is that it is a year-long residency model, meaning I was teaching in the classroom on the very first day. I am grateful for the amazing support system that UNF has fostered. Whenever I have a question, I know I have someone in my networking web who has answers. It’s been incredible to know I’m not on my teaching journey alone, even years after I graduated with my degree. I also received a living expense stipend of $23,000 USD, Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, and an additional $10,000 for the first four years I teach in a Title 1 district, all of which went a long way in helping me feel supported enough to invest in my classroom without financial stress or guilt.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
Yes! I will always remember when one of my professors came into the classroom and stated that teaching was a political act. While others may be quick to assign blame on students and their families, Noyce helped reshape my thinking. Students who were angry and teasing other students were suddenly peaceful and engaged after I fed them. Parents who rarely answered phone calls about school were working several jobs to support their children’s needs. Many politicians and community leaders will talk about education, because they know how important our next generation is. The Noyce program really hit home that there was no such thing as a “bad child” or “bad student,” only inequitable systems which work against the disenfranchised. My training as a Noyce Teaching Fellow reminds me to be cognizant of the experiences my students have had and encourage them to find educational opportunities which work for them.
Whenever I am asked about teaching in a cross cultural setting, I think of one class I had when I still taught middle school science. In that class, I had students who were Hispanic who demonstrated vastly different levels of competency with the spoken and written English language. I had students who were gifted and those with learning accommodations. Most of my students were Black, and many of them asked why I was there teaching them. I found ways to meet students where they were. When I learned one of my mute English Language Learners could understand and write in English, I invited him to help in lab demonstrations and use hand signals and white boards to communicate with the class in a way in which he was comfortable. I used graphic organizers and guided notes to help students stay organized and keep difficult terminology memorized. I gave students choices in the assignments they wanted to complete but never passed up on a weekly lab activity. When one of my students complained about she wished Kahoot could be paced individually rather than as a class, I found online review games that were still fun, but allowed her to work ahead of her peers. I think the most important things I do is exercise patience and flexibility. Every student is going to need something slightly different from you.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
My favorite content and pedagogy lessons within the Jacksonville Teacher Residency program was their heavy focus on constructivist and indirect teaching strategies. Today, my classroom is centered around projects and experience-based learning. My favorite project in the beginning of the year is the Black Box Inquiry, where students must model what occurs inside an opaque box when water is added to it. It was a project I did during my MAT, so I know personally how engaging it can be! I was grateful to have instructors which took their time to explain how to scaffold lessons appropriately. Student-centered learning runs a lot smoother when you build expectations appropriately and give students time to feel confident in what they are doing!
In addition to teaching, are you exploring new areas in content, teaching strategies, leadership, etc. If so, what areas and did the Noyce experience play a role?
The Noyce experience has been so instrumental in helping deepen my academic passions. I have always been a strong advocate for scientific literacy, but Noyce helped me recontextualize why reading is important for everyone. I loved setting up my student suggested classroom library and watching my once hesitant readers fall in love with literature! I learned through teaching that texts don’t always need to be dense and challenging to be impactful for students. The Noyce experience also helped me broaden my horizons! I had some unfortunate experiences as a teenager with mindfulness exercises, but my time at UNF really helped me realize the positive impact meditation and breathing exercises had on not only me, but my students! I hope to study how simple yoga exercises can help reduce anxiety and stress in the classroom during future research projects.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
It sounds cheesy, but the relationships I build with my students are my highlights. I’ll never forget the student who found me during my planning period to let me know how much I meant to her before she moved away. Or the student who got removed from the cafeteria and asked to spend lunch with me instead. When one of my students signed my yearbook, she wrote in Spanish how glad she was to have me twice, because she always admired me and my patience. These are the greatest accomplishments I could have an educator. I’ve always strove to provide the best for my students. I am CHAMPS and Ethics certified, Gifted education endorsed, and I have run extracurricular events such as science fair and Anime Club in the past. Outside of teaching, I had the opportunity to speak on my experiences incorporating an interest-based library to improve reading and science comprehension at the Florida Association of Teacher Educators 2021 Annual Conference held in Tampa, Florida and then presented a poster on the same project during the 2022 Noyce Summit in Washington, DC. I was so incredibly honored to be a panelist during the 2022 Noyce Summit’s Voices from the Field panel also in Washington DC. It was incredible to connect with so many forward-thinking and passionate educators at every event I’ve attended.