Leadership in the Classroom

I would not be where I am in life today, if not for those who led me yesterday.

No phrase has ever rung so true for me, nor have I ever felt so inspired to be that leader for someone else’s tomorrow. As a teacher, I have the invaluable opportunity and ability to cultivate the minds of the next generation, and it is for that reason that I have honed my leadership skills. As a woman in the field of science, I must lead with a unique style. I must be gentle, driven, fierce, determined, and inquisitive, all at the same time. In my classroom, I must be an impeccable leader.

A good leader, leads from a place of love for others.

A good leader, is one that knows their people’s strengths and weaknesses at all times.

They are able to alter their leadership style to best suit the person in need and situation at hand.

They are capable of dissolving conflict and inspiring the unmotivated.

A good leader, is a teacher.

One who does not teach the next generation success, but rather teaches them the skills they need to be successful.

A good leader is an exemplar.

They strive to live their life in the same manner that they encourage others to live.

However, they are not without flaws.

A good leader is relatable, she is humble, she is capable of making mistakes, and capable of owning up to them.

A good leader, is one who does not need recognition to triumph, but recognizes other’s triumphs.

In my future as a teacher, I will empower my students without fail. I will believe in them without waver, I will encourage their curiosities without doubt. I will instill confidence in those who do not see it in themselves. I will treat each student individually, so that they may know what it feels like to be seen and heard. I will command my classroom first and for most with love, so that my students will understand that failure is a part of learning, and learning is to be celebrated.

Rather than leading in front, I will lead my students from the side, and watch as they accomplish great things.

A letter to Ms. Thomsen: the woman who changed my life without either of us realizing it, until now.

As of late, I have struggled to answer the seemingly simple question, “Why do you want to be a teacher?” My struggle is not founded in uncertainty, but rather the inability to transcribe what is in my heart, to paper. Teaching is not only the career I have chosen, but the lifestyle that I choose to live every day: a lifelong devotion to encourage others, lend a helping hand, & ignite the curiosity that burns within all humans. I want to be a teacher, because what makes me happiest is positively influencing others. More than anything, I want to leave lasting, meaningful, & inspiring impacts on my students, whether they realize it or not.

In 11th grade, my chemistry teacher, Ms. Thomsen, asked each of us to think of someone who impacted us in our scientific lives. We were to dedicate our lab notebooks to them. It could be a scientist, a mentor, or an inventor, anyone really. I don’t remember who came to mind that September day at Milaca High School, but whatever name I wrote down 6 years ago, is drastically different than the name I would write down if asked to do the same today.

Ms. Thomsen was everything that I strive to emulate as a science teacher. She created a welcoming learning environment for all students, & motivated each of us to do our best & work hard. Rather than forcing us to simply regurgitate information about Chemistry, she encouraged us to get our hands dirty & DO science. She always brought lessons full circle, by showing us how they related to the real world, & she had a gift for instilling confidence in those who lacked their own. Perhaps most importantly to the younger version of myself, Ms. Thomsen modeled what it meant to be a fearless woman in a field dominated by men. I could write numerous essays about all of the incredible male science teachers that I’ve had over the years, but Ms. Thomsen was the first female science teacher I had in high school. If it weren’t for the passion that Ms. Thomsen brought to her classroom, I am not sure that I would have pursued science at the collegiate level at all.

It took me a long time to grasp that there is no limit on what we can discover through science, but when I did, I knew that I wanted to explore it all, & share it with others. I quickly realized I didn’t really want a career in science. Rather, a career devoted to unveiling the scientists within the next generation in hopes that I might inspire students to pursue careers in the sciences themselves.

In three months I will be tossing my cap at graduation, & like I dedicated my science notebook in 11th grade, I’d like to take the time to dedicated my degree to someone who inspired me. I am very passionate about science, & yes, scientists make incredible, noteworthy discoveries every day, but I have come to realize they are not who has inspired me most in my scientific life. My passions were in fact galvanized by my past teachers. Unfortunately, Ms. Thomsen passed during my freshman year of college, so I never had the chance to tell her how much of an impact she had on my life, or that I am now dedicating my life to being the type of teacher she was, but that isn’t the point of teaching, is it?

Interestingly enough, this is one of the aspects of teaching that I find most beautiful. I am not becoming a teacher because I expect my students to tell me that I changed their lives, but I AM becoming a teacher to change their lives. I want to be a teacher, because dedicated teachers played a crucial role in my life, expecting nothing in return & I feel that it is my calling to do the same for the next generation, whether they realize it or not.

Sea time. Seal time.

My morning started abruptly when Kelcy grabbed my foot to wake me up. Last night we decided to do an early morning hike up the hill to watch the sunrise over the ocean, but I was still in REM when Kelcy was ready to go. I groggily got out of bed, brushed my teeth, & put on my hiking boots. At the top of the hill we ran into LJ & Madel for some good conversation, & beautiful views.

After breakfast we hopped aboard the Hawere, the labs marine vessel, for the second time. Jenni & Ros showed us how they collect under water acoustic data.


We collected data at four different distances (other students will be using the data in class later on in the winter when the weather is not good enough to collect new data), & then set off for a cruise down the coast.

Today’s boat group! (Minus Roland & Chayse) (PC: Ro)

On our coastal cruise we were lucky enough to see a pod of six dolphins!

Bottlenose Dolphins we saw today. (PC Lexi)
Bottlenose Dolphins (PC Lexi)
The Dolphins saying goodbye after they got bored with us & swam away. (PC Lexi)

After returning to the bay we went back to the lab for lunch. Because our course final is tomorrow morning, we began to study as we ate. After lunch the other half of our group went out onto the Hawere, & we stayed back at the Lab.

Looking for any excuse not to study, Kelcy convinced me to go snorkeling one last time before we have to return our wet suits, & boy am I glad that she did. On our snorkel we saw loads of Snapper, Red Moki, a couple jelly fish, & many Rays (both Sting Rays & Eagle Rays).  Last, but certainly not least, after exploring a cave, Kelcy & I were lucky enough to sea a New Zealand Fur Seal!!!

Unfortunately, for the first time on this trip, I had a mishap with my GoPro, & did not manage to record any of these awesome sightings, so you’ll all have to take my word for it. Just so you get an idea of the incredible marine life we saw, here are some google images.

This is a photo of a New Zealand Fur Seal.
& This is what it looked like when we saw it today, except there was only one.
Red Moki: Usually seen in pairs because they mate for life.
New Zealand Snapper: Beautiful sparkly specks on their backs.
One Sting Ray pictured on the far left, & two Eagle Rays on the right.

In all honesty I do not like snorkeling very much. I get freaked out about what is around me that I can’t see due to the limited peripheral vision & tend to feel very vulnerable. Regardless of feeling uncomfortable, todays snorkel was well worth it. Between all the marine life we saw & the cave we got to explore, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that swim. & that is why you should always push yourself out of your comfort zone. If I wouldn’t have, I would have never seen that seal today.

We finished the day with delicious stir fry, courtesy of Megan of course, studying for our exam, & more cards.

Todays US -> New Zealand Translation

Garbage = Rubbish

Plankton, Reptiles, & The Walking Trees

Today we started out in the lab again. This time we were looking at Zooplankton we collected under the microscopes.

Crab Larvae
Skeleton Shrimp

After lab we ate lunch!

The delicious Sushi that Megan made for lunch!

Because of strong winds & swells we couldn’t go in the water today, so instead we headed to the local reptile park!

Tuatara Reptiles found only in New Zealand. Although they look like lizards, they are actually part of the Order Rhynchocephalia. Tuatara are the only remaining species of this order, as the rest of the species flourished around 200 million years ago, & are now extinct.
This free fella is called the Day Gecko. Because unlike most Gecko’s, he is not nocturnal. (Creative name isn’t it?)
Leopard Tortoise
Tarantula Molt
This monkeys name is Harrison. He is the only non-reptile at the park, & only resides here because he is too old to be put back into the wild. Sadly his partner died about two years ago, so he is now alone. He’s about 40 years old & healthy, which is extraordinary for his species!

It was interesting to hear the owner speak about why they have this Reptile Park. Like many others, I am not a fan of raising animals in captivity (zoo’s), but the owner raised a very good point. All of the species he keeps are native to New Zealand, & many of them are very hard to see in the wild because of their declining numbers, & nocturnal nature. Because they’re so hard to see, many New Zealanders do not understand that the reptiles need to be protected because they don’t actually know they’re there. This reptile farm heightens peoples awareness to the reptiles around them.

After leaving the Reptile Park we went on a hike at Ti Point. It was beautiful & muddy, & I loved every second of it.

The whole gang (minus Ros & Jenni, our Ta’s)
A selfie from Ros & Jenni


We were all in awe because we felt as though we were walking through a scene from the Lord of the Rings. It’s easy to see why the trees can walk in the Lord of the Rings, because these massive trees are amazing in real life. 


Climbing in a large Matakana Tree

Satisfied & muddy we returned to the Reserve for dinner & our minute talks! We were each given an animal & a cultural/landmark subject to research & give a small presentation on. I was assigned the Kingfish & the Southern Alps. This is the link to all of our information.

After our minute talks we turned in for another round of cards. Up & Down the River seems to be the game of choice (Thanks Uncle Rob for teaching me!). Slowly everyone started to walk back to the dorms to go to sleep for the night, but Kelcy, Madel & I stayed up gabbing for a while.

New friends & New places.

Gettin’ Gro(o)vey!

Since half of our group set up the light traps for zooplankton last night, it was my groups turn to gather the traps this morning. Unfortunately, because it is winter here (southern hemisphere) we did not collect as many organisms as we would have liked, but we will work with what we have! The collection will be used in lab tomorrow.

After collecting the traps we all set out for the nearby mangroves. We put our gear on and snorkeled around for about an hour. Even though most of us are used to the chilly temps of Lake Superior water & we had wetsuits on, we all got very cold. Regardless, we saw some pretty cool stuff!

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 5.25.39 AM.png
It’s hard to see, but this is a still photo of some epifauna we saw in the mangroves.

My favorites were the crabs crawling around on the bottom, the sea slugs crawling on mangrove sprouts, and some of the juvenile fish swimming around near the sea floor. Two of these benthic fish were called triple fins (native) & blennies. It was also pretty fun to do a little free swimming in the water as another former swimmer from Denfeld, Kelcy and I swam a little butterfly! (Mostly just me reliving some glory days.)

Unfortunately, many people in New Zealand find mangroves undesirable in their backyards, so there is a lot of removal of mangroves occurring in the area. This is HORRIBLE for the environment as it increases costal erosion & takes homes away from tons of organisms.

We didn’t spend much extra time in the water as we were all very cold, so we went back to the Reserve for lunch. After lunch our school work started back up again. Today we dissected 5 native New Zealand fish, & the native urchin (Kina). It was pretty fun since I haven’t directed anything since the Fall of 2016.

*side note: these fish were taken from waters that are outside of the reserve that we are staying at. You can not take from the reserve, even for scientific purposes.

Evechinus Chloroticus or Kina is a local sea urchin that is a crucial organism in the balance between the Snapper (pictured later), & the kelp in the reefs on Goat Island Marine Reserve. The picture above shows the inside of one after we dissected it.
This is what a fully grown Kina looks like in the ocean. Kina’s main source of food is Kelp forests.
Snapper Pagrus Auratus: These fish eat the Kina pictured above, this further supports the balance between Kelp, Kina, and Snappers in the Reserve.
Tarakihi Nemadactylus
Kahawai Arripis: The name of this fish is pronounced COW-EYE so originally we all thought that was the name of it.
Trevally Caranx
Gurnard Chelidonichthys: I forgot to take a picture of this fish during the dissection, so I stole one from the internet. In New Zealand children would cut the beautiful fins off these fish & dry them to use as bookmarks, so naturally so did we!

I figured I would spare you the gory details of the dissection, but it was pretty interesting. Emily decided to try and fillet one of the fish, so I got a quick lesson on that. Hopefully, I will become a pro at filleting fish this summer & be able to feed myself while on Courtney & I’s road trip to BANFF in August.

We cleaned up from lab & turned in for dinner. Unfortunately due to the weather we were not able to do much else after we ate, so we played a few hours worth of cards. I have been battling quite the phone issue with my SIM card, & become increasingly frustrated with the carrier, so cards were a welcomed distraction. (If you’re trying to get in touch with me & I’m not answering, that is why.) Thankfully, I can survive without cellphone reception. I’m mostly frustrated with the waste of money, but as we all know, money comes & goes.

It is supposed to rain throughout the night & all of tomorrow, so it looks like more lab work & less field work on the agenda.

US –> New Zealand translation of the day:

Ut = Truck

A letter to my future high school teacher self, from the hopeful college aged you.

Dear Future Mrs. Scherer (Wonder Woman),

When you are in your 15th year of teaching, and you are growing tired of the repetitive days, rowdy students, critical parents, and boring curriculum, please remember why you went into this profession. Remember the words of Julie Williams, “[You] feel effusively alive when [you are] faced with the challenge of creating new understanding in the minds of students. ” (Williams 1). If one day you grow tired of finding ways to instill your students with genuine interest in learning please do not do what so many teachers do, teach the minimum. Remember that students need to learn more than what is required to do well on tests. More than what is written in the curriculum. Simply regurgitating information is not an education. Berliner and Glass point out that “training in STEM… may serve the labor markets but it is doubtful that it prepares children for a full and satisfying life.” (Berliner 6). Follow the lead of the teachers that inspired you to teach. The ones that taught you not only about science and grammar, but also about life, and the importance of knowledge, experience, and passion. Please remember the fire that your teachers once ignited in you, and strive every day to light that same fire in others.

If and/or when you become frustrated with the pressure to improve your students standardized test scores remember what you read in Finnish Lessons, “evidence suggests that teachers tend to redesign their teaching according to these tests, … and adjust teaching methods to drilling and memorizing information rather than understanding knowledge.” (Sahlberg 67). If you, like so many other teachers, adjust what and how you teach merely to see better results on these tests, your students will suffer. Stop allowing the pressure of improving test results to sacrifice the greater education of students. Please hold yourself to a higher expectation than the bare minimum. Each of the three books you read in EDUC 1101 point out failure of standardized testing to actually test what it means to have a good education; what it means to have a well rounded array of knowledge.

If we as teachers give students a passion of learning itself and a desire to understand, we will set them up for a lifetime of education, rather than 4 years of learning how to temporarily memorize and repeat seemingly useless information that will soon be forgotten.

Being a teacher is a very difficult career, because you didn’t just choose to be a teacher, you chose to be Wonder Woman. Show the student that no one expects to graduate, that you hold her to a higher expectation, push yourself to catch the interest of the boy in the back of the room not paying attention. Don’t let students slip through the cracks and merely go through the motions of the day. Remember that superman is not coming to save the day and change education. You chose to be a teacher because you wanted to make a difference in peoples lives. Don’t wait for someone else to be the change you want to see, because that is why schools are failing. Educators are sitting around waiting for someone else to waltz in and change the way things are done, because that’s easier than actually putting in an effort and going to battle for their student’s education every time they get an F on a test. Don’t forget that you have to show the kids your passion and genuine care for them to learn. Don’t become another teacher that kicks back and watches kids grow up through a broken system.

My Tail.

Having lived nowhere else but the small town of Milaca, Mn I have fallen into the rut

of expectations. I know what to expect at the store, at church, at school. However, in as little as the first week of my senior year I was thrown off quite a bit. In a small town school students don’t get away with breaking unspoken social rules without the entire student body hearing about it by lunch period, and if they do bravely wander into uncharted territory those bold choices come with an extreme amount of teasing. To my surprise this year I saw not one, but two girls wearing bushy fox tails to class. My peers wore those unruly tails to school even though they knew they would be teased. They made one very large fashion statement, and they made it holding their head high. That is what I want.

No, I don’t want to wear a tail; the fluffy extremities are far from my idea of taste, and I have confidence in my personal style. I just want to make a statement in the way I live. I consider myself a fairly well rounded person, but I don’t have my thing. My tail if you will. I’m not a ridiculously talented singer, and I’m not beauty pageant beautiful. I’m smart, but I’m not ingenious, and I’m athletic, but I’m not Olympic worthy. It’s not that I don’t give 100% every time I jump into the pool, step onto the field, or begin a test, it’s just that I haven’t found my niche. I haven’t found a place that I am clearly meant to be.

Every day I see people with confidence in their futures that I envy, and spending the next ten years of my life bewildered by where exactly I fit is an extremely terrifying idea to me. Impacting the outcome of students lives. Students that will go on to do great things that could change the world is what I dream of. I want to be an exceptional teacher, coach leader, and mentor, but achieving that goal is far from near. Years of hard-work, dedication, and even some ambivalence will lead me to the unshakeable confidence in my field that I so badly yearn for right now. I am looking for a certain answer in an unpredictable future.

I don’t want to be a nonconformist. I don’t dream of becoming the class valedictorian. I don’t want to think about what I want to do, or who I want to be. I want to know. I want to feel it with every muscle in my body, and every neuron in my brain. I want to wake in the mornings, get dressed and put on my tail. I imagine myself walking across a campus and making a statement. Walking back into a school as a teacher, and know that I will own my job. I want people to look at me and believe that I am one of those people who knows what they are destined for. One day I will stand tall on my pedestal.

I wrote this at the begging of my senior year of high school (and edited it now). That was almost three years ago. At the time I thought I was going to be a lawyer. I have now been through almost two years of college at two different universities, changed my major, and become more and more confident that I am walking towards my destiny every day. 

Sure, there have been days when I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. There are days when I hate my classes, and my current job working at an elementary school. But the moment that a light goes off in a kids eyes makes it all worth it, and more. The moment when I know I am making a difference in someones life, and lighting a spark of interest in in school for a teenager, that makes it worth every hard test, every late night studying, every assignment.