Washington’s Presidential Science Teacher Award Recipients Share Yakima Roots | Education
Inside Roosevelt Elementary School teacher Julie Fry’s classroom, there’s more life to be found than her curious first-graders.
There’s the gerbil that the kids built a land bridge like the one in Vancouver. There’s the composting area where she raises land snails and fruit flies, the latter feeding a Venus fly trap. And there’s the salmon tank that the kids watched in the early stages of their life cycle and will release after spring break.
Although she knows and teaches national science standards, she said she prefers to teach her classes based on her students’ natural questions.
“I’m not going to teach science like a recipe,” she said.
It’s innovative teaching like this that helped Fry win this year’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education. This is the highest honor the government can bestow on a K-12 math or science teacher. White House press release. Teacher eligibility changes each year between K-6 teachers and 7-12 teachers.
Fry and Allison Greenberg, the other Washington science teacher honored with the award, have deep Yakima roots and attended Roosevelt Elementary School themselves.
Greenberg now works for Everett Public Schools as a STEM specialist. She and Fry discussed their lifelong interests in science that flourished in Yakima schools and which they now use to foster the next generation of critical thinkers.
Learning “No Blame, No Shame”
Fry grew up in Yakima and attended Roosevelt Elementary School, where she taught for 26 years, she said.
Her first science teacher was her father, who taught the subject for a time at schools in Oroville, Camas and Bellevue, she said. They examined small animals like worms and moles, and he encouraged her to ask questions about the world around her.
“I really try to do that with my students too,” she said.
Fry said she wants her students to never be afraid to ask questions, even if their initial thoughts about a topic turn out to be wrong. In her class, the motto is “no blame, no shame”, when it comes to learning.
Most jobs require critical thinking skills and strong teamwork, two other habits she tries to instill in her young students, she said.
When the pandemic started, Fry said it was hard for her to no longer have hands-on, in-person learning. She noticed a spider that had set up a web in the bathroom of her house and uploaded a video of her feeding it to YouTube for her students to watch.
The kids responded well, so she uploaded more videos, trying to bring back her beloved experiments.
“And so, I just said, ‘This is crazy, I’m going to bring it to them somehow,'” she said. kids love them.”
Fry said the application process for the presidential award was intense. She sent in videos of her class’ salmon unit, where children used popsicle sticks to examine the bodies of salmon fry and adult salmon, looking for patterns and differences.
It was the third time she had applied. She said her past attempts had caused her to narrow her lessons and that after a careful process of judging her methodology, pedagogy and integration of other skills, Fry learned that she had won.
She nearly missed an FBI call for background clearance that all finalists go through because she dropped her cell phone in a lake while enjoying Washington’s natural beauty. This is another habit that she tries to pass on to her generations of students.
“We live in such a beautiful place in the country,” she said. “We have so many geographic features to pay attention to and habitats…I think it’s important for families to enjoy this stuff together.”
Passing on the love of science
Before Allison Greenberg took on the role of STEM Specialist for Everett Public Schools, she was a student at Yakima Schools. After moving to town around sixth grade, she attended Roosevelt, Franklin Middle School, and AC Davis High School.
Like Fry, his father, a physician, instilled in him a strong sense of curiosity. Greenberg recalled that they were both building radios and learning Morse code.
But there was also a strong interest in education in her family, she says. His mother, Barbara Greenberg, served on the Yakima school board, including as president, for several years.
At school, Greenberg met sixth- and high-school science teachers who taught concepts such as molecular biology and genetics.
“I felt fully supported by the university community when we moved there and it helped pave the way for the passion for science that continued at university and beyond,” he said. she declared.
Greenberg studied zoology, ecology, evolution and conservation biology at the University of Washington and began her work as a STEM educator 16 years ago.
She began her teaching career as a teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School in Mill Creek, before transitioning into the role of Elementary Science Facilitator and STEM Specialist for her district.
As a STEM specialist at Woodside Elementary School in Bothell, she taught students science and engineering classes, Greenberg said. This included a lesson on bridges which she used as part of her application for the award.
She has already applied for the presidential award once and almost decided not to this time around as the application process took place during the pandemic. Although the process was rigorous, it also allowed for reflection on his teaching methods.
“I just see it as a growth experience, as one more time to grow as an educator and learn from your own teaching and your own practice to improve yourself,” she said. “Because I see this as one of my constant goals.”
This year, she said she took on more of a coaching role for teachers, rather than working with students.
Greenberg is passionate about spreading her love of science. She believes that all students, regardless of cultural or socioeconomic background, deserve a chance to embrace the subject.
“It starts with providing opportunities for all students and doing it in a way that will give them the foundation, the enthusiasm and the confidence to continue to pursue, and that’s really where I see my role,” said she declared.