Position: Science Teacher
School: Granger Junior High School
School District: Sweetwater Union High School District
City, State: National City, California
About the Nominee: Stuart Douglas strives to be a fun, engaging teacher who designs lessons and activities that will educate and inform his students. At the same time, he aims to provide them with the personal interest and motivation to more deeply explore the topics being taught. His classroom is dedicated to inspiring students, engaging them in science and conservation and providing a fun, light atmosphere that encourages students’ passions, creativity and inquiry-based science. He tries to make his class a place where students want to be in, a space where they feel comfortable and secure as they grow in knowledge about the world around them. Students in Mr. Douglas' class look forward to the 52 minutes they have with him each day. His classroom is full of color; photographs, posters and student work cover the walls. The cabinets are filled with bones, shells, fossils and rocks. There are aquariums full of fish, turtles and a tarantula. Mr. Douglas has tried to create an atmosphere where students can relax and feel safe and comfortable. They often play music as they work and have the doors open to let fresh air in. Mr. Douglas stands at the door on most days greeting the students and talking about their days. The day’s agenda is written on the whiteboard, and Mr. Douglas and his students go over it as a group. After checking to make sure that they understand, he and his students begin the day’s activity.
An ideal day would be one where they do a lab or an activity, and every group follows the protocol and gets results. Alternatively, another great day would be one where Mr. Douglas takes students on a field trip and they have an amazing experience with nature. Recently, they conducted a DNA extraction lab using strawberries. Every group was able to get the DNA extracted and harvested. To see the students' amazement and pride in producing these results, just as a scientist would in a lab, was very rewarding to Mr. Douglas.
Alas, not every day is this ideal. Sometimes the best virtual lab, TED talk or Prezi presentation can’t be shown because the server is down, the best crafted assessment is met with less than stellar results or the best field trip is rained on. It happens, but the key is being resilient and being able to modify plans on the fly. Those less than perfect days make Mr. Douglas appreciate those awesome days, or moments, even more.
However, the best lessons anyone can learn are those learned through failure. Mr. Douglas is a firm believer that life is about getting knocked down, but having the resilience, desire and grit to get back up. Students sometimes struggle with low self-esteem and self-image because they didn’t achieve some goal. Mr. Douglas' job is to show them that they are not alone in that feeling and to help them get up and get ready for their next challenge. He shares stories of both his failures and successes with students.
He motivates students by celebrating small victories, such as the first time a habitual F student passes a quiz. When a "no-show" student comes to school every day for three weeks, or when one of his shyest students gets up and gives a presentation, Mr. Douglas cheers and offers hi-fives. At the same time, when they fall short, he helps them get up. He lets them know he understands their frustration but expects them to try again. Mr. Douglas is teaching his students that the goal hasn’t been lost and that much more has been gained through their effort. He wants his students to leave his classroom knowing they should never miss a chance to celebrate success, and that they should never forget the lessons learned in failure.
Mr. Douglas wants the best for his students, and that means being the best teacher he can be. He strives to constantly improve his lessons and curricula by integrating new methods and technology when and where he can. If he expects success for his students, then he must set the same standards for myself. Mr. Douglas' students know he cares about them and wants them to be ready for the journey ahead of them. They are the reason he's here, and he's proud to represent his students!