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Featured Teacher: Jennifer Sosnowski

Jennifer Sosnowski. Credit: Sean Neff.

Jennifer Sosnowski teaches at Community High School in Roanoke, Virginia. Since it’s a small school of only 65 students, she is the only full-time science teacher and, depending on the year, teaches a little of everything: biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, psychology, astrobiology, human origins, and an elective on how science interacts with the law, the media, and public policy.

How did you decide to go into teaching?

A year or so into my PhD program, I realized that while everyone else couldn’t wait to finish teaching in order to get back to the lab, I couldn’t wait to finish lab work so I could get to the classroom. I figured that I should probably pay attention to what that was telling me.

What are you most proud of in your work?

While teaching the kids who already love science is fun, I find it even more rewarding to coax along the students who have had bad experiences with science classes in the past. Recently, a parent of a freshman told me that her daughter was aghast when she was signed up for biology, but came home animatedly discussing the opening project after the first week. Nothing makes a teacher happier than that!

Share a lighthearted story about yourself.

I recently competed on Jeopardy! (And won!)

Read a book you are dying to tell your peers about? Give us a brief summary and why you love it.

The Fifth Season trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. It’s a science-based fantasy novel where the magic is based on the ability to manipulate geology. The science is accurate and the story is absolutely engrossing.

Do you have a science demo that students find particularly compelling? What makes it so interesting for them?

When teaching about membranes, I bring out some water-repellent “magic sand.” It’s a simple demo, but it really brings home how water behaves when it encounters something truly hydrophobic, similar to the inside of a plasma membrane.


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<p>Jennifer Sosnowski. Credit: Sean Neff.</p>
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