Meet TI Teacher of the Month: Jessica Kohout
We’re celebrating teachers, like you, who make a difference in the classroom. This month, join us in getting to know Jessica Kohout, a biology teacher with a “Ms. Frizzle approach” to teaching.Fast Facts About Jessica:
- TEACHES WHAT: Biology, AP and regular
- TEACHES WHERE: Reservoir High School, Fulton, Maryland
- TEACHING FOR HOW LONG: 14 years
Jessica in her own words:
Why did you become a teacher?
I didn't realize that I wanted to be a teacher until my senior year of college, when I got an internship in the National Aquarium in Baltimore’s outreach program. My first job was in Informal Education at the Maryland Zoo’s education department. It was there that I discovered my favorite part of the job: seeing the excitement and sense of wonder kids had when they were learning about nature. That’s ultimately why I decided to become a classroom teacher, so I could be surrounded by that same feeling every day.
"When you get to see those “Aha!” moments come to life for your students, it makes it all worthwhile."Jessica Kohout, TI Teacher of the Month
What advice would you give to your first-year teaching self?
To not take yourself so seriously. As a first year teacher, you’re always so self-conscious about what to do and what to say. Remember that it’s okay to joke around and to make mistakes. Just be yourself.
What do you love most about teaching?
I love interacting with the kids, and seeing how my passion can translate into their passion, by giving them a chance to explore and figure things out for themselves. When you get to see those “Aha!” moments come to life for your students, it makes it all worthwhile.
What TI technology do you use in the classroom and how do you use it?
I have a class set of TI-Nspire CX’s and the Navigator system, as well as eight TI-Innovator Hubs. By starting with one project per quarter, I'm slowly incorporating coding and engineering design fundamentals into my classes. My hope is to expose my students to the idea of coding, and how it can be used in both Biology and Engineering Design. I also use the TI-Nspire’s for data collection, formative assessment, and the simulations as a tool to help make learning fun.
How do you help your students learn difficult concepts?
I try to tie it in and “make it real” by giving students lessons and activities that they can truly see and experience. We have access to this phenomenon through NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), which allows students to discuss concepts they’re learning through real experiences. This permits them to start making connections, so that each concept becomes less abstract.
What are some fun or unique ways you help your students learn?
Again, the idea of not taking yourself too seriously. I tend to be goofy, and have embraced the Ms. Frizzle idea of “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” I'm okay with students laughing at me, because I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get them excited. Something else that I do is called #ScienceJokeFriday on Twitter, where I post a science joke each week for the students. It's become something that the students are obsessed with, to the point where if I don’t have it up, they’ll ask me about it. Usually, I post cheesy science puns that tie into what we're doing that day. For example, last week we were talking about genetics, so the joke was: “What's a comedian's favorite square?” The answer was a PUNnet square. They’re terribly cheesy, but the students love it.
What would you say to thank the teachers you’ve had?
I probably wouldn't be here without the science teachers that I had. When I think back to how I got my start in education and to the teachers who really made a difference, I always remember the science teachers. Their classes were always so much fun, because they worked to make each concept seem both attainable and interesting. Ultimately, that's what I hope to do for my students.