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Teacher of the Month: Katie Byrd

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Katie Byrd teaches a climate change course that culminates in independent student research on urban climate adaptations, as well as classes on urban ecology, nutrition, and astrobiology. | Katie Byrd

Katie Byrd
Teacher, James Baldwin School, New York

Background: Katie Byrd covers geosciences at the James Baldwin School for Expeditionary Learning, a public transfer school in Manhattan for over-age, under-credited students. She teaches a climate change course that culminates in independent student research on urban climate adaptations, as well as classes on urban ecology, nutrition, and astrobiology.

Question 1: What fuels your passion for science and teaching?

Answer: I have an impulse to work on the world’s big problems like climate change, and answer big questions like: Is there life beyond Earth? I also believe education is a vehicle for cultivating respect for humanity and commitment to justice.

Question 2: What are you most proud of in your work?

Answer: I am most proud of my formerly disengaged students who now call themselves scientists. I am also proud of making the experience of science special and fun. One example is our annual "STEAM" Nite (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) when the entire community celebrates STEAM with presentations, demos, art, games, music, and awards.

Question 3: What topic do you find hardest for students? How do you teach it?

Answer: Analyzing data is challenging, especially in our authentic research projects where students collect, organize, and present real data. I teach students to be “pattern detectives,” and to treat our research question like a puzzle with many possible answers.  

Question 4: What do you do to remain current and bring the latest science into the classroom?

Answer: Networking! Via social media, workshops, conferences, and curriculum design groups. I say "yes" a lot, especially to opportunities to improve my practice and explore new topics. Also, Twitter keeps me up to date on research and conversations in the science and education communities.

Question 5: Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.

Answer: I love to travel. I am getting ready to go on a nine-month sabbatical to visit climate-sensitive regions around the world and develop curriculum to increase climate literacy.

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<p>Katie Byrd teaches a climate change course that culminates in independent student research on urban climate adaptations, as well as classes on urban ecology, nutrition, and astrobiology. | Katie Byrd</p>
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