Teaching students to love and understand science

April 4, 2018

Christy Swauncy is the 7th grade Lead and Science Teacher at KIPP Central City Academy and a winner of the 2017 New Orleans Excellence in Teaching Award. She is originally from Memphis, Tennessee and has been teaching for 13 years. She’s the proud mom of three kids. When we asked her why she teaches, she shared with us the following.

When I was a freshman at Dillard University, I wanted to be a dentist. I was lucky to have instructors who were strong role models and helped me picture different career paths.  After graduating and having my first child, I changed direction and decided to pursue education. It quickly became my passion. Now, as a middle school Science teacher at KIPP Central City Academy, with nearly all African American students in my class, I want to be a role model for my students.

I want my students, especially my female students, to have someone who looks like them, talks like them, and can relate to them, especially when learning a STEM subject.  Even though minorities make up 27 percent of the general working-age population, only 11 percent work in STEM jobs. The numbers are even lower for minority women.

I want to change this. I want my students to develop a love and understanding for science that will stay with them through high school and their career.

In middle school science, we focus on diseases, global warming, and genetics among other topics. Through experiments and hands-on learning, I try to spark my students’ natural curiosity and encourage them to explore on their own.

I’m inspired to teach students like Kavonna, who started out behind grade level at the beginning of the year, but, as her excitement for science grew, was driven to work hard and push herself in class. Kavonna would sit with me during her elective periods and after school in order to understand concepts she didn’t grasp at first. She was excited by the real world applications of our science class and worked hard throughout the year. By the end of 7th grade, she caught up to grade level and now wants to be a science teacher.

According to the National Science Foundation, only 15 percent of African American students enroll in advanced science courses in high school. I hope to build a foundation with my students that sets them up for success in high school and, if they are interested, allows them to pursue Advanced Placement and Honors science classes that challenge and excite them. I’ve proudly held my students to high standards and 90 percent of my 7th graders pass the Biology End of Course exam. I know it helps my students to see a representation of themselves within the classroom. People of color makeup 92 percent of the student population in New Orleans but account for just over half of the teachers. I hope to see this gap decrease as we inspire the next generation of educators.

I choose to teach in New Orleans because I want my children, and all of the children I teach, to see an example of what they can achieve with hard work and someone to support their dreams and goals.

I feel privileged to guide my students as they develop their identities and become young adults, and I’ve actually had two of my own children in my Science class at KIPP Central City Academy. I know all of my students will use their science foundations in real life, and I hope to inspire future pediatricians, mechanics, engineers, and nurses. It can all begin here, in New Orleans, in 7th grade Science class.