Research scientist Lauren Danner finds impact in the classroom
Danner shares her love of science and her journey as a scientist, empowering her students, especially girls, to see themselves in the field
Why did I become a teacher? For some people, the pathway to teaching was always clear. Many of my colleagues imagined themselves as teachers from the time they began elementary school, playing “school” with family members and pets.
For me, the path was not straight.
Impact. That's what I was striving for.
Prior to becoming a teacher, I worked as a research scientist at a small biotech company. I enjoyed what I did on a day-to-day basis and especially loved the idea that a project I was working on could potentially improve the quality of life for so many people.
Impact. That's what I was striving for.
When the company underwent massive layoffs and eventually was sold, I was devastated. As I contemplated my next job, I thought about how I could maximize my impact. I loved science and especially loved sharing my passion for science with others. I began researching educator preparation programs, and contacted one of my former high school teachers who was now a teacher recruitment coordinator.
After learning more about how to become a teacher and all that it entails, I began to realize that teaching was a natural fit for me.
Not only could I share what I had learned and done in the research industry, but I could also foster scientific engagement and a love of learning in my students.
Teachers help students navigate school and life
During my first year as a science teacher, I quickly realized how great of an impact educators have on the lives of their students. I saw this on a daily basis—in students getting excited over learning about something, finally understanding a difficult concept, or not wanting to leave class because science is awesome.
But the impact goes much farther than academics. It was the daily conversations I had with my students, the stories we shared, and the relationships we formed that I began to treasure the most.
As teachers, we have critically important roles in the lives of our students. With the power of our words and actions, we have the ability to make someone’s day brighter. We see our students struggling and hear about their daily challenges, and we encourage and support them through it all.
We offer hope, kindness and empathy. We celebrate their achievements and pick them up when they fall, assisting them in overcoming personal barriers. We help them navigate through life, guiding them every step of the way when they are with us in our classrooms.
And after they’ve left us, the impact continues.
Many years after becoming a teacher, I began receiving letters, emails and visits from former students who were now in the workforce or pursuing college degrees. I listened to them describe how I helped shape the trajectory of their lives.
Some remembered how much I truly enjoy my job, and they were becoming teachers as a result. Others recalled having difficulties at home and wanting to come to school to be in my class in order to feel safe and happy.
Inspiring girls to see themselves as scientists
I also heard stories of how my students saw themselves in me. The connection seemed obvious at first, since I grew up in the same town and attended the high school where I now teach, but there was a much deeper connection that stemmed from why I became a teacher in the first place.
As a female science teacher and former scientist, some of my female students were inspired to delve into a career in science as well.
They shared that, prior to taking my class, they never visualized themselves being successful in the field of science. But after being in my class and hearing about my journey as a scientist and educator, they were encouraged to pursue a science career.
There was a clear correlation between my passion for science and their self-confidence and empowerment.
I am keenly aware that in my classroom right now, I may be looking at a future doctor, environmental scientist or the first astronaut to set foot on Mars. With impact as my goal, becoming a teacher was the best career pathway I could have chosen.
See yourself in any career
Your career trajectory is your own. What profession will make the best use of your talents and skills? For Lauren, "becoming teacher was the best career pathway I could have chosen."
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