Taking it to another level – Julie McConnell, ASC Cato Lifetime Achievement in Teaching

Categories: ASC, ASC Awards, Blog

Why this matters: ASC recognizes that creative individuals and teachers enrich the cultural lives of everyone in our region and beyond through their work.

Julie McConnell, a biology teacher at William A. Hough High School in Cornelius, is honored with the 2016 ASC Honors – Cato Lifetime Achievement in Teaching Award.
Julie McConnell, a biology teacher at William A. Hough High School in Cornelius, is honored with the 2016 ASC Honors – Cato Lifetime Achievement in Teaching Award. Photo by Nancy Pierce.

By Michael Solender

For Julie McConnell, AP biology teacher and science department chair at Hough High School, teaching students to “think like a scientist” is a way to equip them with problem solving skills they’ll need in their studies and throughout their lives.

“Getting kids to collaborate is a much more effective learning technique than providing procedures and process for them,” said McConnell. “It’s all about taking it to another level and helping them see nothing is beyond their reach when they apply themselves.”

McConnell has been encouraging her students to excel over her 30 year teaching career, always creating a framework to challenge and engage them.

“Teaching is something I know I’m supposed to be doing,” said McConnell. “I get to do something that really matters. It’s important for me to have a relationship with my students. I expect a lot from them and I want them to have high expectations for themselves.”

McConnell was part of the inaugural staff that opened Hough High in 2012. Her impact was immediate and dramatic in establishing a rigorous science curriculum. She introduced AP biology classes at the school, founded Hough’s Science National Honor Society Chapter, founded and coaches the Science Olympiad team, and secured a grant for the purchase of laboratory equipment for biology, chemistry and forensics use.

Her accomplishments earned McConnell special recognition as MeckEd Teacher of Excellence and the Hough Principal Award for Technology in 2014.

“It’s exciting to know you made a difference for someone,” said McConnell. “I had a student tell me, ‘Don’t give up on me Mrs. McConnell,’ and I said, ‘Don’t give up on yourself.’”

McConnell seized a very big opportunity to open students up to the world of possibilities that science offers when she began a relationship with the Charlotte-based Echo Foundation. The foundation works closely with area schools annually, in­troducing them to Nobel Laureates, their work and the impact a single individual can have on society.

In their 2004/2005 program, the Echo Foundation brought renowned physicist, Douglas Osheroff to Charlotte. While teaching at North Mecklenburg High School, McConnell showcased Osheroff’s work, recreating his innovative pressure system in a real-time science experiment for a crowd of 350 students and teachers. McConnell’s continued to work with the foundation, working creatively to integrate science into the curriculum and relate it to the work of the featured Laureates.

“These opportunities for the students are huge,” said McConnell. “I want them to know they really can change the world.”

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