MySci educator honored as outstanding teacher

Karis Jackson, 8th grade science teacher at Hazelwood Central Middle School in the Hazelwood School District, was named the 2016 Outstanding Middle School Educator by the Science Teachers of Missouri (STOM) – the state chapter of the National Science Teachers Association.

Karis Jackson, 8th grade science teacher at Hazelwood Central Middle School in the Hazelwood School District, was named the 2016 Outstanding Middle School Educator by the Science Teachers of Missouri (STOM) – the state chapter of the National Science Teachers Association.

The lights are dim and Karis Jackson is buzzing around her classroom. It’s her planning period, but she’s not slowing her step. Watching her zip around her room, it’s easy to see how she racks up 13,000 to 15,000 steps a day.

The lights are dim and Karis Jackson is buzzing around her classroom. It’s her planning period, but she’s not slowing her step. Watching her zip around her room, it’s easy to see how she racks up 13,000 to 15,000 steps a day.

Jackson, who is in her ninth year as a science teacher at Hazelwood Central Middle School in the Hazelwood School District, was named the 2016 Outstanding Middle School Educator by the Science Teachers of Missouri (STOM) – the state chapter of the National Science Teachers Association.

This was her second time being nominated. The first time she didn’t fill out the application doubting she merited it.

“After I was nominated again I started feeling badly, and I said, ‘If someone is nice enough to nominate me then I should go ahead and do the paper work.” And guess what? When she put her achievements to paper she was really impressed with her accomplishments.

“When I got everything written up, ‘I thought wow!”

In addition to teaching, Jackson is also a curriculum writer for the Institute for School Partnership’s MySci program, which aims to cultivate the region’s next generation of scientists by engaging students in STEM through interactive learning experiences and creative curriculum.

“It’s a great opportunity for me as a teacher to share what I know,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of great ideas out there, and getting together in a specific spot to do that sharing is invaluable.”

Educators like Jackson are vital to the success of MySci, said Victoria May, executive director of the ISP.

“Because teachers write the curriculum, other teachers recognize the authenticity of it and feel comfortable using it,” May said. “It is so important that science curriculum is engaging and allows students to envision themselves as problem solvers of the issues that our world faces today.”

Jackson’s favorite part of her involvement with the MySci program is collaborating with the community of educators from across the region.

“It’s an opportunity to get some new ideas, fresh perspectives, and best practices,” she said. “Usually we’re doing a lot of the same things but just different approaches to it. So, I love it!”

Love of learning

As a young girl Jackson dreamed of being a pharmacist. With an associate’s degree in pre-pharmacy under her belt she enrolled at the University of Missouri–Kansas City in hopes of getting into its medical program. Marriage and children sidelined her plans – for a while. She started thinking of becoming a teacher when her daughter entered school. The teacher was constantly asking Jackson to help out. Her volunteer work went from once a week to twice a week to eventually every day.

“One day she said to me, ‘You’re a natural have you ever thought about teaching?” Jackson’s response was no. If she was going back to school she wanted to complete her pharmacy degree not start over with education courses. But she really liked working with kids and eventually started substitute teaching.

For a person who was hesitant to re-enter higher education she certainly has made up for lost time. She has earned a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, and a master’s degree in teaching. She has also earned advanced certification in science education from Washington University. In addition, Jackson has completed her educational specialist degree with principal’s licensure in elementary and secondary education.

“I love learning. I love professional development. I’m a professional student. I love being around kids. I have a passion for teaching and I love science,” she said. “Once I started learning about pedagogy,I was hooked. I wanted to learn even more and test the strategies in the classroom.”

Only constant is change

At the start of a new school year, Jackson believes teachers must start with a new growth mindset. New year, new students, different skill sets for achievements.

“Teachers have to constantly change,” she said. “I don’t think they can use last year’s lesson plans for this year’s kids. You have to meet your students wherever their need is.”

“If students are not being successful,” she said, “I’m always thinking about ways to meet them at their area of need. We have to get to know these kids and find out their interests.”

Jackson is receiving leadership training to develop the leader within her. She was recently selected to participate in the Hazelwood School District Aspiring Leader Preparation System (ALPS). Participants receive professional development training and exposure to real-life experiences that will help prepare them to pursue future leadership roles.

As an emerging leader, she hopes to play a major role in closing the achievement gap between underrepresented minority groups and the general population.

October 2016 | by, Myra Lopez

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