Chelsea Sexton (B.S.Ed. '14), a science teacher at Kennesaw Mountain High School and an alumna of UGA's College of Education, was recently named Georgia's High School Science Teacher of the Year by the Georgia Science Teachers Association.
In addition to teaching advanced research methods and AP environmental science, Sexton serves as the school's magnet research coordinator and swim team assistant coach. Since she teaches a range of courses, both advanced and on-level, Sexton's goals for her students vary depending on when she meets them during their educational careers.
"So much of the content in these courses is directly related to their lives—understanding water and air pollution, understanding what cancer and tumors are biologically, and how the values that people prioritize will shape their choices," she said. "I facilitate their understanding that knowing science is cool and that being able to share their knowledge and message is paramount to achieving their goals."
Sexton encourages her students to take ownership of the information they learn in the classroom, so they feel invested in the content and practices of the subject area. Additionally, she provides guided notes to scaffold them through topics before reinforcing key points with hands-on activities, often acting as a facilitator to help them process complex scientific concepts.
Recently, she added a unit on pathogenic pollution to her AP environmental science class and partnered with an environmental engineer to develop a disinfection experiment that connects global drinking water security with students at home.
"My students were much more invested when they were working on a lab that measured how safe their water was to drink," said Sexton. "It was exciting to watch them really care about their environment and other people around the world."
This coming fall, Sexton is excited to start the next chapter of her life as a doctoral student in the College of Education's department of mathematics and science education. She plans on focusing even more on the practical and clinical applications of teaching and education and hopes to learn more about the research and theory of science education.
"I am excited to become a scholar of science education in addition to a practitioner in the classroom," said Sexton. "I am excited for the doors that UGA will open for me in the realm of higher education as well."