Position: Architecture + Engineering Teacher
School: Helix Charter High School
School District: Grossmont Union High School District
City, State: La Mesa, California
About the Nominee: Jennifer Bullock was nominated by Gail Young. Ms. Bullock has always had the teacher bug and a love for the outdoors that was instilled in her by her high school Geology teacher. She knew she didn't want to major in education, but rather a subject that she was interested in. Ms. Bullock later found herself helping everyone with technical issues, so she thought, "Why not get into teaching?" She went to grad school for her teaching certificate in Career and Technology Education. When she transitioned to education, she was one of many teachers who opened one of the first STEM Academies. At first, Ms. Bullock faced challenges establishing strong relationships with her students. Then, she decided to change her way of teaching. She was under the assumption that these “techie” students would love to sit in front of a computer and do whatever they wanted. She was wrong.
Ms. Bullock looked at her curriculum and decided to get them working with their hands. At the same time, she was collaborating within the STEM academy and working with Texas A&M Grad students to develop a lesson plan book to help teachers build a project-based learning classroom. It was project-based learning that opened up the students’ eyes and her own.
Ms. Bullock now puts the students in charge of their own learning. She provides them with some skills and background, presents them with a problem and says "go!" This has really turned around her students, who, for the most part, thrive in her classroom.
As a student, Ms. Bullock scored low on the SATs, got test anxiety and generally struggled with high school, but that did not cloud how smart she was. She encourages and lets her students know that being smart and putting your most authentic self forward is what will place you on a fulfilling journey. She loves being that teacher students know they can come to whenever they need to talk. Due to the fact that she is not at the front of the room lecturing and more of a facilitator, Ms. Bullock is able to talk with her students and get a glimpse of who they are. She has particularly enjoyed empowering female students, and it has been fun for her to see more "girl power" in the media.
Ms. Bullock stated, “So many students put themselves in boxes and don't venture out because they think they are going to fail. But failure is good, it's how they learn.”
Her favorite thing about teaching is being there when that "aha" moment arrives for students. It may take years, but the students always come back and praise Ms. Bullock for her kindness, helpfulness and ability to "keep it real." Ms. Bullock stated, "I am content knowing I have had an influence on them. If I can be that voice in their heads that lets them know they can take that leap, then I have done my job.”
Ms. Bullock is making a tremendous difference in the lives of her students!