Noyce Scholar Profile
Jessica Danielle Samson
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S., Biology; currently in the MAT program in Science Education
Subject area(s) and grade level teaching focus: Biology, grades 7-9
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Master Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
University of Georgia/Noyce Fellowship Program
Current academic or teaching status:
First-year graduate student.
School and school district:
I am currently doing my practicum work at Madison County High School in Danielsville GA
My parents adopted me when I was three days old from Mexico. They were traveling through Mexico doing work for Heifer Project (a non-profit that works with communities to end hunger and poverty) when my father became ill in a small town called Puebla. The doctor noticed that my father was wearing a clerical collar and asked if he would talk to a distraught woman (my birth mom) about a baby (me). The woman was distressed because she could not afford to take care of the baby. The baby’s options seemed bleak; possibly to die at home or at an orphanage. My father spoke with my mom and on the spot they decided to adopt me. I was extremely lucky to be adopted, and this is one reason why I have always felt the need to serve others. Over the years my family has moved ten times. We spent the most time in Albany, NY and this is where I say I am from. I believe that living in different states such as Oklahoma and Alabama taught me how to adapt and relate to others. I hope that my background will help me relate to students and reach out to new students. My sixth-grade year my family lived in Guatemala, so that my father could work on his thesis for his doctorate in anthropology. This experience showed me firsthand how difficult it is to be immersed in a whole new culture. I now want to work in a high-needs school and offer guidance to students from other cultures. I find it rewarding when Latino students feel comfortable speaking Spanish with me and asking me to help translate. I want to work in a high-needs school because I think it is a great way to give back and because I want to serve as a mentor to struggling students.
Why do you want to teach:
One of my professors at Millsaps College, where I got my B.S. in Biology, said something that deeply impacted me. He said, “There are two kinds of educators, those that teach because that is a way they can learn about the subject they love and teach others about their passion; and then there are the teachers who are called to teaching and are happy teaching anything to anyone.” I knew instantly that I was the latter kind. I have taught many different disciplines ranging from reading instruction to botany, and I have worked with students ranging from pre-school to seniors in college. I learned something new from every teaching experience, and I have never had a teaching experience that I did not enjoy. Therefore, I believe teaching is my calling.
Describe a memorable teaching experience:
At Millsaps College, I took a class titled “Field Research in Reading” in which I was given four, fifth-grade students to work with. Each student was at least one grade level behind in reading. My goal was to have each student reading above grade level by the end of the semester through re-teaching them the building blocks of reading. I quickly learned that some students are behind due to circumstances out of their control. For instance, one student named Anastasia was a foster child and her favorite foster brother was in jail. She did not have anyone at home to help her with her homework or to read to her. At the end of the semester Anastasia almost made me cry when she told me that I was her favorite teacher and that she wanted to be like me when she grows up. I not only want to teach, I also want to serve as a positive role model.
What does the Noyce program mean to you:
I want to be the best teacher I can, and therefore I want to learn as much as I can about teaching. The Noyce Fellowship allowed me to enroll in the Master of Arts in Teaching in Science Education Program at the University of Georgia (UGA). I took receiving the Noyce fellowship as a sign that UGA would be a good fit for me. I am truly grateful for this fellowship because I love my program, and I am so glad that I came to UGA. This fellowship has allowed me to focus on my education and make the most of the program.