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Leading Teacher Profiles

As leading teachers, KSTF Fellows are primary agents of educational improvement. Read on for highlights of their outstanding work.

Leading Teacher Profile: Heather Hotchkiss

A Virginia teacher builds collaborative teams inside and outside of her school and district

Heather Hotchkiss loves teaching physics because of its applied, problem-solving nature, but also because it forces students to think about thinking.

“For many students, it’s the first time they hit a wall and they have to teach themselves to learn,” says Hotchkiss, who teaches at Robert E. Lee High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. “That’s a really important step.”

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Leading Teacher Profile: Derek Pope

A high school math teacher brings an intensive collaboration model from Japan to New York

While he teaches high school math on Long Island, Derek Pope brings lessons learned from Japan into his classroom every day.

Pope, who took a two-week trip to focus on how Japanese teachers engage in lesson study—an intensive structure for teaching collaboration that includes planning, observation, and critiques, admits he was initially skeptical that the demanding time requirements of the model made sense for him and his colleagues. But the trip, sponsored by the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) and his school district, opened his eyes.

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A high school biology teacher is cultivating the next generation of environmentalists

During her undergraduate studies at Franklin & Marshall College, Rachel supported three biology classes as a laboratory teaching assistant. In this role, she found that she truly enjoyed sharing her enthusiasm about the subject with other students. “I liked the challenge of making something ‘boring’ seem cool,” Rachel added. In need of resources designed to support science teachers, she successfully applied for a 2010 KSTF Teaching Fellowship.

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A school garden shows what can happen when a network of inspired educators takes root

Like many urban schools, YES Prep North Forest is located in a “food desert” in Houston, Texas—a neighborhood with limited access to grocery stores or fresh food. Helen Snodgrass became aware of the broader implications of this crisis when she began teaching high school biology at the school four years ago. “The more I talked to my students about their eating habits, the more I found that they had no idea where their food came from and how it could impact their health,” she says.

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A high school biology teacher discovers that his enthusiasm for science is contagious

When Isaac Stewart began teaching biology at Fisher High School, a small rural school in Illinois, the first-year teacher quickly realized he was the entire biology department. “I definitely had to pull my weight,” he says. “There was no curriculum, and I had to build the program from scratch.”

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Michigan teacher answered a calling to prepare students for careers in math, science, and engineering

As an undergraduate engineering student at the University of Michigan (U-M), Maurice Telesford struggled with a question that went on to define his career: why graduation rates in the engineering program were so low for students of color. “It seemed like a lot of it stemmed from poor high school preparation,” he says. “I felt called to teach high school math or science in an inner-city school, to better prepare students for careers in engineering.”

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High school physics teacher and KSTF Senior Fellow co-founds STEM school with Knowles Foundation support

As the only high school physics teacher in her upstate New York school district, Heather Buskirk faced a dilemma familiar to many educators in her early years of teaching. “I could close my door and stay in my room and do things my own way, or I could effect change,” she says.

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A New Jersey science teacher drives change at the district level without leaving the classroom

Chosen as part of the second cohort of Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) Teaching Fellows, Kevin Henson has remained at the same New Jersey high school since he started teaching a decade ago. “What I like is that I have the ability to provoke change,” he says. “Things are not stagnant, and I can see the culture beginning to turn.”

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Physics teacher leverages lessons learned from KSTF Fellowship to change curriculum and practice in his Oregon district—and beyond

With an undergraduate and master’s degree in physics, it’s only fitting that Bradford Hill spent some time working as a patent examiner. Unlike Albert Einstein, he quickly realized that his calling was to teach high school. “I wanted to influence people’s perception of science and the role of science in their lives,” says Hill, now a physics teacher at Southridge High School, a large comprehensive high school in Beaverton, Oregon.

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