2021 California Science Education Conference

Teacher of the Year (Upper Elementary): Rachel Bloom

Meet Rachel Bloom

Receiving this award was a big shock. Great science education happens all over the state. For me, it is recognition for the hard work I put into the science teaching and learning that happens in my classroom and throughout my school district. I feel like I spent the last 16 years earning the award. I will spend (at least) the next 16 years showing everyone that I deserve the recognition. I will continue to up my game and do as much as I can to provide the best science instruction to my students. I will work hard for all students in my school district, and beyond, to get them the best science instruction I can.

Rachel Bloom

What made you decide to become a teacher?
I wanted to become a teacher because I want kids to be happy. When I was little, my mom was sick. She had multiple sclerosis and died from complications of MS when I was in fifth grade. I wanted to be a teacher and was able to choose to do that because I learned the skills I needed to prepare me for college, my credential program, and eventually teaching itself. I want to be able to help students develop their academic and social skills, so they can choose whatever profession they would like and be prepared for whatever challenges they need to face to meet their goals. It all starts with a good education. An education and academic preparedness will give my students choices. Having choices, I think, will help make my students happy.

Why are you passionate about science education?
I love teaching science for many reasons. First of all, I like it when questions get answered. Asking questions is nice enough, but really, I like getting answers. Scientific discoveries answer questions about the world around us every day. Not only that, but after identifying problems, I like figuring out solutions. After we have learned about the world around us, we can apply that knowledge in order to solve all sorts of problems. So not only does science help us get questions answered, but it also gives us the knowledge we need to start thinking about how to solve all the problems around us. Science and engineering are the keys to growing and developing as a society and as stewards of our precious planet Earth.

Second of all, studying science is perfect for elementary schools kids. It gives them such an authentic way to work on their reading, writing, and math skills. Want kids to write? Have them write down their observations or share information they have learned. Want kids to read? They are interested in science and will read to learn more about topics that interest them. Want kids to do math? Collect and graph data after an experiment.

Science gives us an authentic reason to have students work on their skills in every subject. Science even gives real opportunities for kids to work on communication skills and social-emotional development. Students have to work in groups, figure out how to deal with frustration when an experiment goes awry, and learn to have integrity and act with honesty with it comes to collecting their data. Studying science helps you become better at everything. So, no matter what my students decide to do in their future, I know that the skills and knowledge they learn in my classroom will help them reach whatever goals they may have for their future.

What are some of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of teaching?
The most challenging part of teaching for me right now is not being able to teach. Behavior seems to get worse every year. Many times last year I had to spend a lot of time on management. It was frustrating because I knew what cool stuff we were missing and not able to get to. We couldn’t move on because we hadn’t finished what we needed to to do so. Last year, I felt I couldn’t do some lessons just because I couldn’t trust students to be safe with materials. Classes I have had in the recent past have had 2 to 5 and even up to 6 or 8 students that just ruin it for everyone else. How is it right for 20 - 25 kids not to be able to learn because 6 others have completely hijacked the class? I teach at Title I schools that are predominantly attended by Students of Color. When I am dealing with behavior issues and unable to teach, that means I have a class of 20 - 25 Black and Brown students that are not able to learn. It is unacceptable to just be OK with that. How many PBIS forms does a teacher need to fill out before administrators actually do something so that teachers can actually teach?

  • The most rewarding thing about teaching is that it can be so much fun when I am able to actually teach.
  • The class buzzes with excitement.
  • There can be such positive vibes in the classroom when we’re in the zone.
  • That millisecond of silence right before the kids says, “oohhhh… I get it…”
  • The furrowed brow they get when they are thinking about how to explain a phenomena they just witnessed.
  • The excited tap on the shoulder they give to a classmate to show them something interesting that just happened and they don’t want their classmate to miss.
  • Creating an environment where, no matter what, my kids know they are important, loved, and valued.
  • Those are some of the many things I love about teaching.

Describe your teaching philosophy.
OK. I have to admit that I have been thinking about the answer to this question for hours and hours and hours. I Googled and Googled. It is such a broad question. I don’t exactly know what to say.

What I do know is that I am a grandchild of Holocaust survivors (on my mother’s side) and a great-grandchild of Jews that emigrated from Russia in the late 1800s to escape the pogroms (on my father’s side). I was raised to respect education and know that getting an education helps you become successful. My grandparents and great-grandparents wanted us to get an education to secure a brighter future and better life than they had growing up.

Now I have the opportunity to help my students and their families improve their lot in life. I hope to help encourage their curiosity and develop a love of learning. I hope they will gain the academic and social-emotional skills they need to be successful in whatever they choose to do.

I think I have been able to be at least somewhat successful in that because students know I care about them. They know they are important to me and deserving of care and attention. They can also tell that I love my job. They know that I have fun doing what I do and they know that when they are in my classroom that they will usually have fun as well.

I just want my students to be happy.


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