2021 California Science Education Conference

Teacher of the Year Award (Middle/Jr. High School): Angelica Gunderson

Angelica Gunderson

What made you decide to become a teacher?
My inspiration to become a teacher came from my own teachers growing up. Each one of my instructors instilled a long lasting passion for learning, which made me want to continue the rest of my life in the world of education. I am fortunate enough to have a mentor who uncovered my love for science and guided my career into the science education sector. Engaging with my students and my community have continuously fed the feeling that this is where I belong.

Why are you passionate about science education?
In my experience, science, technology, engineering and math have an essential role in one’s understanding of the world. The skills I have personally developed while engaging in STEM classes have made me into a more persistent individual. I understand that progress is success all in itself and that the world is full of possibilities yet to be explored and designed. I am passionate about science education because I believe that its effectiveness can truly change the way learners of all ages experience their life.

What are some of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of teaching?
The most rewarding aspect of teaching is the students. They bring such joy and awe into each lesson. Their sense of humor and their innovative approach to looking at the world surprises me and motivates me to keep teaching. I learn so much more when I am around students because they are all a test sample of what our society and community are experiencing. Their knowledge and experience keeps me grounded and also on my toes. It challenges the way I plan, teach, and check for understanding. This all makes my work so much more dynamic. Students’ varied levels of understanding and skill can be a challenge, but over the years, I have seen it as also an incredible motivator to learn more about my craft and develop as an educator.

How has your involvement teaching pre-service teachers helped you become a better teacher?
Creating units and adapting lessons to better suit the needs of varied communities has helped me show prospective teachers the creative aspect of our career. Working with pre-service teachers is such a joy because they are looking forward to being in the classroom and teaching science. They are so full of possibilities and ideas. They get to exercise their creativity and see the potential of a well crafted learning experience. The work is reinvigorating! It makes me reflect constantly on my own teaching, so I think it has made me a better teacher every year.

What does this award mean to you?
I think in some ways this award means that teaching itself is extraordinary work. I never expected to receive any award because in my mind I am just doing what I am tasked to do; to teach the courses I have been assigned, to the students that have been placed in my classrooms. It is rare that anyone recognizes that as extraordinary. This award shows that what we teachers do in the classroom is indeed that special. So thank you.

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