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Teacher Spotlight: The Power of STEM

1 year ago


A full-fledged lab is just one of the ways David Heacock, a Science teacher at St. Katharine of Siena, is inspiring students to pursue a passion in the sciences. Here’s what he had to say about getting more children involved in STEM at AOPS.


What inspired you to create St. Katharine’s science lab?

 The creation of the lab had been a goal of the school for a long time. Under the direction of my principal and pastor, and with the input our science teachers, we were able to turn that dream into a reality. Science education in our building has improved dramatically, because whenever you allow students to get their hands dirty and put into practice what they have seen in a book or video, good things happen.

As a father of five, does your home sometimes resemble a science lab?

Well, whenever I do something really cool at school, I always bring it home to share with my children. They loved testing the flammability of a dollar bill on fire doused in a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water, making flubber, and creating a milk rainbow, especially. A few years ago, my daughter got a telescope, and on clear nights we often use it to explore the sky.


In your work with junior high students, what have you done to make science more accessible and appealing to students?

My lessons and labs are designed to give our students ownership over their learning – to let them try things, make mistakes, and then learn from those mistakes. Giving students a safe environment in which they feel comfortable to experiment is the best thing a teacher can do. And that’s true no matter what the academic subject is.


As chairperson of the Science Committee, what do you most hope to accomplish in the coming year?

I really want to involve teachers from across our school system, at all grade levels, in helping to develop our short- and long-term strategy. In doing this, we would look to highlight what works best for some of our teachers and allow them to share that with other educators. The greatest resource we have is each other, and I want to maximize that.


Each year, you and your students create a “museum” at the school that focuses upon an area of interest in science and social studies. What has been your favorite topic so far?

Our first museum ever was on World War II, and to this day it is still my favorite. We had the pleasure of working with two great organizations, Saving Hallowed Ground and the American Legion, and it was through them that we were put in contact with some amazing veterans and families who really brought the topic to life for the students. Since then, we’ve done museums on World War I, the Vietnam War, the Ocean, the Solar System, and American geography and sociology.


As someone who has worked in AOPS  for a long time, what has made that experience so rewarding?

I was hired right out of college by my former grade school principal at St. Katharine of Siena, Sister William Therese, to teacher fourth grade. And except for a brief stint teaching eighth-grade math in the Bronx, I’ve been with AOPS ever since. AOPS gave me so much as a student – acting as a third parent in many ways, and I always felt like I needed to give back. I have had the honor of crossing paths with some unbelievable teachers at St. Katharine, and they motivate me every day to do the very best I can for my students.