By Michael J. Solender
Connie Scercy Wood’s hunger for discovery is a clear key to her success as an educator. She’s demonstrated enthusiasm for the inseparable pair of teaching and learning for 27 years as a science teacher at East Mecklenburg High School, much to the delight of her students and colleagues.
“I love teaching because I love learning,” says Wood, who’s spent her entire teaching career in the same classroom at East Meck. “I find I’m always learning from my students. The kids will often ask me questions I may not know the answers to; then we end up exploring solutions together. And to me, that’s really exciting.”
Teaching biology to 9th and 10th graders and forensic science to 11th and 12th graders provides Wood plenty of opportunity to share her love for all things science to her kids, an enthusiasm level they find infectious. “Kids know when teachers are genuine and authentic,” says Wood. “I want them to see the excitement I have and use it to light a similar fire within them.”
Wood’s joy for teaching extends beyond her classroom and into developing tools and resources for her colleagues as well. Wood is a three-time participant in the Yale National Initiative, a university-led professional public-school teacher development program. She used her experiences there to develop specific science curriculum units for other teachers nationwide.
Additionally, Wood drew on this experience to help with development of the Charlotte Teacher Institute, a content development lab and resource for area teachers. “Science is always changing and evolving,” says Wood, who noted she found inspiration at Yale to bring similar resources back to her Charlotte colleagues. “It’s important to keep current as a teacher and bring fresh ideas and research to the classroom.”
Recognizing other educators may not have the resources she enjoys, Wood’s interest in bridging those gaps doesn’t stop at the U.S. border. In 2016 and again in 2017, she traveled to Rwanda to work with students and teachers to introduce STEM education as part of the Pivot Academy Rwanda with Mothering Across Continents program.
She was in five different rural schools where she led students in activities involving problem solving and the design cycle for experiments in food preservation. She also led a workshop for Rwandan biology teachers to show them how to use simple, inexpensive, or found materials to do experiments and hold virtual labs with their students using tablet pcs they brought.
For Wood, making learning fun is all about tapping into her students’ thirst for knowledge. “Find out what students’ interests are and why they are in your class,” says Wood when offering advice to other educators. “And find fun ways to connect what you’re teaching to those interests. Then watch the learning take off.”