A science teacher at Redding Middle School, Ferrell is one of two Delaware finalists for the highest recognition a K-12 mathematics or science teacher can receive in the United States. It’s the second time the Middletown-area resident has been named a finalist for the honor since 2009.
Q What does being named a finalist for the PAEMST mean to you?
A It is difficult to describe how honored I am to have been selected. It is very exciting to think that I may be among the best science teachers in Delaware and I am proud to have the opportunity to represent my school and district. To be honest, it’s kind of surreal. I love teaching and learning, so being selected as a finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science teaching is just wonderful.
Q What do you think makes a science teacher excellent?
A I think excellence in the classroom comes from a genuine love of the material, as well as the students. I work very hard to foster the natural curiosity my students have and constantly develop and re-develop activities that stimulate and challenge them. Since I am “geeky” about the Earth Sciences, I truly love what I do. That’s infectious in the classroom and students enjoy that passion regardless of what subject it is.
Q Given your love of science and research, what made you choose the classroom over a laboratory?
A I absolutely love teaching. It doesn’t matter what level or what age group I am working with, there’s just something about being able to talk to people and interact that has always drawn me to being a teacher. I do love research, labs, and field work, but those experiences just don’t match the richness of teaching. I will never forget my first real oral presentation. My classmates were asking me so many questions during my presentation that I really felt like I was teaching the class. That’s when I knew.
Q You’ve done a lot of work with the Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education and Research Group. Why do you think climate change remains a topic of debate, given the overwhelming scientific evidence?
A Since it is difficult to get quick results and there are so many different variables affecting climate, we will constantly have new information coming out. Climate change affects entire regions differently, so the myriad opinions regarding it will always exist. In the area where we live, it’s critical that we understand how we are affected differently than other areas in our country. Debate is healthy. It forces us to look critically at what we are measuring and really understand how we can influence the world around us.
Page 2 of 2 - Q If you could make one change to improve science education in the United States, what would it be?
A I wish we could design more of our curriculum to give the students opportunities to actually develop their own unique lab activities and prove or demonstrate the concepts on their own. I would like to see more teaching intertwined with engineering so that the students truly own the material we want them to learn.