Bianca McKeen, part-time faculty member in the Education Division at The College of St. Joseph, has been named the 2012 Vermont Science Teacher of the Year for grades K through 8.
McKeen is a teacher at Rutland Middle School and instructs the graduate level course Science in the Elementary School at CSJ. She also holds a master’s degree in elementary education from CSJ.
“I feel very honored to represent my school and my district,” McKeen said.
The Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering honors one high school teacher and one K-8 science teacher each year who are an inspiration to their colleagues and leaders in the improvement of science education.
McKeen said she believes she was honored because the criteria for the award is gaining the respect of colleagues and students. She said the letters colleagues wrote in nominating her for the award demonstrated this.
VASE Outreach Coordinator Grace Spatafora, Ph.D., said the competition for the award was keen this year.
“What was especially outstanding about Bianca’s portfolio is the way she integrates teaching science with the arts. This approach asks students to demonstrate their understanding of scientific concepts through role playing (ie. acting) drawing, and even through song. Such an integrative approach brings her students to make connections between seemingly disparate disciplines, and it brings them to appreciate the inter-disciplinary nature of learning,” Spatafora said.
McKeen said students learn the same material as any other science class, but it is presented in new ways. One technique she likes to use is to integrate physical movement into the lessons. It helps students make a connection between their body and their brain, she said.
For example, she might dramatize a lesson about molecules in solids, liquids and gases by having students move around as if they are the molecules. Another is teaching Newton’s Laws of Motion by having students act out the laws and allowing other students to guess which laws the students are portraying.
McKeen said there is less and less time for science education and it is important to find ways to integrate science with other disciplines. As a CSJ instructor, she teaches others how to integrate science into areas such reading, mathematics and technology.
“I think the educational background I got at CSJ and my other classroom experience helped form the way I think about teaching,” McKeen said.