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Susan Porter

Susan Porter

Center Grove Middle School Central

12 Years of Teaching; 12 Years at Center Grove 

To me, teaching is important because...

Teaching is important because it provides the opportunity to plant seeds for the future. After working as a chemical engineer for five years at Eli Lilly and Company, I had the opportunity to stay home with my children. Having a son on the autism spectrum and an anxious high-achieving daughter allowed me perspective on building my construct on what kids need to be responsible adults. During that time, I also was a substitute teacher at Center Grove schools for fourteen years, which further shaped my thinking. In 2009, I took a long-term substitute position teaching seventh grade and went to University of Indianapolis full-time to work on a master’s degree in education. It took me a long time to realize my calling. A current student who transferred to Center Grove schools this year recently shared with me during a working lunch, “I came here, so I can have a better future.” I take this mission seriously. I’ve seen that kids need consistency and fairness. Sometimes they need a push, sometimes they need a hug, and sometimes they need both. They want to be challenged, they want to know what they’re learning is relevant, they want to collaborate, and they want to feel successful. I work to ensure that my students feel safe and loved in my classroom and that I’m a person they can trust and who will help. I have high expectations for all my students. Working hard is recognized and celebrated. Students are rewarded with Science Salute stickers for thoughtful responses on assignments. During class discussions, students are celebrated by getting love (z-snaps) from their classmates for good thinking or for persevering with their thinking. I teach them how the brain works and how important it is to have that moment of cognitive dissonance, and to not give up.

A former student wrote to me, “You believed in me, and never gave up in helping me think through my own questions to help my growth.” My goal is to help my students develop confidence in their thinking and problem-solving. I encourage my students to be curious about the world around them. The subject of science easily lends itself to engagement and wonder. My lessons may include singing, dancing, demonstrations, and hands-on activities. Seventh grade is the first time for students to be in a lab setting and to frequently work with science tools. Students currently are learning how to use microscopes. My students are always excited to see what specimens (assassin bug, bumblebee, stinkbug, etc.) I have put under the stereo microscopes for them to see.

Finally, I want students to see that there is a big world out there with many opportunities. I look for video clips on content that includes female scientists and/or scientists of various ethnicities. I recently had a student who shared that she could see herself studying ice core samples in Antarctica after watching a British female scientist setting up camp there. I share real-world experiences from my projects as an engineer. I show students pictures and videos from my trips taken to study volcanoes in the United States and Iceland. I want students to see that this world is an amazing place and that you are never too old to learn something new. Students get to see that even at fifty-eight years of age, I wasn’t too old to hike on glaciers, go down to the bottom of a volcano, interview a volcanologist, and snorkel in glacial water between tectonic plates.

My mission is to plant seeds of lifelong learning, of caring for others, of working hard, of not giving up on your ability to think and problem-solve, of being curious, and of believing that you can have a better future.