Erin Dukeshire knows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to receive quality math and science instruction. That’s what brought her to teaching and what has kept her in the classroom for the past decade. She has reaped her share of awards, including the 2015 Fishman Prize, but perhaps nothing is as gratifying as her current work in turning one of Boston’s lowest-performing schools into one of its fastest improving.
School: Orchard Gardens K–8 Pilot School, Roxbury, Massachusetts
Career Path: Dukeshire joined Teach for America in 2005 and taught in Miami-Dade County, Florida, for two years. She later moved to Boston to teach at a charter school, where she stayed for three years before joining Orchard Gardens in her present role as teacher-leader of the science team.
Teaching Philosophy: “Two words come to mind: social justice. It’s important to me that my work closes the achievement and opportunity gap.”
Quotable Quote: “When you investigate amazing things, you see that something magical is happening. Complex interactions are going on behind the scenes.”
Cool Project: Experimental Grant
Dukeshire strives to tie science to the real world. Case in point: Instead of an end-of-unit test, her students create a mock grant application, which is how many scientists get funding. First, Dukeshire demonstrates a “bottle popper” experiment (the reaction of baking soda and vinegar in a bottle causes a greased stopper to pop out), while students write hypotheses and construct data tables. Afterward, students compile the information into a grant application and detail how much money they’d need to conduct the experiment on their own. “It’s a clear way for me to assess what they can do individually, and it’s also a real scenario,” Dukeshire says.
Tell us what you've learned from being a mentor.
“I mentored a woman during her first year of teaching. Now, I feel like we’re constantly learning from each other. It’s amazing to walk into her classroom and see a strategy she took from me and made better. It pushes me to continue improving.”
Three Favorite Professional Learning Books
Puzzling Moments, Teachable Moments, by Cynthia Ballenger: “Sometimes you wonder how kids could think certain things. This book is about listening to what they’re saying and why they’re saying it.”
Supporting Grade 5–8 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science, by Katherine L. McNeil: “It’s about teaching kids to create written arguments using the format of claim, evidence, and reasoning.”
Learning From the Experts, edited by Celine Coggins, Heather G. Peske, and Kate McGovern: “This includes issues in education framed by policymakers and thought leaders, and then responses from teachers.”
Photo: Courtesy of TNTP