Basha High science teacher Arizona’s best - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Basha High science teacher Arizona’s best

June 10th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Basha High science teacher Arizona’s best
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

A Basha High School teacher has recently been recognized as one of Arizona’s best biology educators.

Katherine Nall, who’s been teaching biology and environmental science in Chandler for 15 years, was recently selected by the National Association of Biology Teachers as the state’s top science teacher in 2021.

Nall, who was nominated by a colleague, will represent Arizona among the organization’s class of national recipients.

She will be recognized later this year at the association’s national conference in Georgia, where she’ll receive a gift certificate to purchase science supplies and a complimentary one-year membership to NABT.

Nall said it was especially rewarding to be recognized at the end of a difficult year, which forced teachers to figure out how to continue teaching during a global pandemic.

“It’s been a rough year,” Nall said. “So, to get good news like this at the end, kind of lets you know you’re doing it all right.”

As a teacher who enjoys having her students learn through hands-on activities, Nall has struggled this past year deciphering how to safely continue teaching while maintaining social distancing.

The first quarter of this school year was the most challenging, Nall recalled, since teachers were forced to teach virtually.

The ordeal ended up being a valuable learning experience for Nall, who has already begun to evaluate how she can adapt her teaching style to conform to a digital-friendly format.

“If I had to do virtual again,” she noted, “I would do it completely different than how I did first quarter.”

Nall is often asking questions, analyzing her actions and making logical adjustments – a habit she strives to pass on to her students each year.

Her inquiry-based approach to teaching attempts to get students curious about the natural world and thinking about how to solve real problems.

“My hope is that I can teach them skills that they can carry on into whatever they do,” Nall said.

A transplant from Michigan, Nall originally had ambitions to attend medical school and become a pediatrician.

But once she realized that chemistry was not her best subject, Nall discovered she could focus exclusively on biology by becoming a teacher.

After she immersed herself in education, Nall said everything seemed to click and her career pathway suddenly looked clearer.

Her favorite aspect of teaching is getting to see students make discoveries as they conduct experiments. There’s not much engagement happening outside the laboratory, Nall said, so her classroom time tends to prioritize hands-on work.

“I personally get bored when I have to lecture and give notes,” Nall added. “I prefer to teach by doing.”

Nall’s students have the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics that range from agriculture to water pollution.

A popular topic has always been Nall’s unit on antibiotics and the classroom lab that allows students to experiment with bacteria.

Nall teaches the class how E. coli grows and lets them expose strains of the bacteria to different antibiotics to see how the bacteria become resistant against the medicine.

Nall said her students always enjoy observing how the bacteria react to the antibiotics and learning how the process relates to the development of modern pharmaceuticals.

“It’s one of their favorite labs that they do throughout the year because it’s so real,” she said. “I’m not afraid to let them work with bacteria.”

When Nall isn’t in the classroom, she’s taking on extra duties by coaching sports, spearheading Basha’s environmental club and overseeing the school’s science fair.

NABT has been singling out remarkable science teachers across the country since 1961 by selecting candidates who embody innovative, collaborative qualities in the classroom.

Nall’s dedication to molding analytical, inquisitive minds stood out to NABT as an attribute that helped her nomination rise above the association’s other applicants.

Daryn Stover, the association’s Arizona representative, noted how Nall was the right candidate for demonstrating the values of an impactful science educator.

“Nall’s engagement with students through inquiry-based learning is impressive, as is her commitment to staying at the forefront of advances in science pedagogy,” said Stover. “We are pleased to recognize her years of service to biology education and student success with this award.”

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