The Foundations of an Exemplary Science Teacher

“Exemplary teachers will always care more about the people their students will become than the scores on the tests they take”

Robert John Meehan

But what exactly makes up an exemplary teacher? You could ask many different teachers that same question and find yourself with varying answers. But why don’t we ask ourselves, “why can’t there be multiple answers?”

Many educators talk about the importance of scaffolding in education. It is a flexible way to teach our students today and flexibility is one of the key foundations of an exemplary teacher.


The Foundations of Exemplary Teaching Involves Multiple Answers:

  • Flexibility: Science, in its nature, is constantly in a state of flux. Nothing is ever “proven” or absolute when it comes to any study of science. Therefore, if science is constantly being flexible to new ideas or evidence, we, as science teachers, must be flexible as well. Whether it is being flexible to your students needs, adjusting the lesson plan to accommodate students who are struggling, or scaffolding different techniques to better help different types of learners, you must be flexible to your students’ needs in an ever-changing environment of science and education.
  • Knowing what it’s like to be a student: The best teachers are the ones that learn alongside their students. In order to be an exemplary teacher, one has to learn their students just as well as they know the subject matter. Things like how a student best learns, how they deal with stress, and even what their favorite song is goes a long way to best compiling a lesson plan that effectively teaches each student and developing a trusting relationship between you and your students.
  • “Being hands off”: Now this might sound scary to a lot of teachers as many of our educational experiences involve the teacher being the expert and the student banking whatever information the teacher lectures. The reason why many of us know how to drive a car or ride a bike so well is because after a little bit of guidance, they learned to let us go and we learned to “fly away”. Once we start seeing our jobs as facilitators and not dictators, we’ll start noticing more of our students to “fly” at greater heights.
  • Being memorable and inspiring true science: No matter how much your students love science, no student is going to remember the answer to question 11Q in chapter 14 of “Physics for Scientists & Engineers”. Authentic science involves requires your brain, your hands, and your peers to be active. Allowing students to engage in a group experiment that involves inquiry will go a long way for students to understand concepts like momentum instead of a 15 question online assignment due before midnight.

Real World Activity:

Allow your student to apply their knowledge of 2D-kinematics by providing them with an adjustable ramp, a ball, a stopwatch, measuring tape, and a plastic cup.

With those materials, challenge them to get the ball to drop into the cup with the ramp placed on top of a table using their knowledge of 2D-kinematic equations.

The height of the ramp and the distance of the cup to the edge of the table is completely up to the student!

For more information about exemplary teaching, please feel free to watch the video above. Azul Terronez provides a refreshing and well-spoken take on how great teachers go beyond what their profession asks of them.
Here are my final thoughts regarding exemplary science teachers. I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog!


  1. Jay-
    I really liked your section on how “The foundations of exemplary teaching involves multiple answers.” I felt this section was super helpful in outlining the ways prospective teachers can enter into the world of education with a strong base of ways to improve their teaching skills from average to exemplary. The only suggestion that I have would be to break that section up into smaller sections saying the same thing! It would just make that paragraph look more concise. I really enjoyed your post, it was very helpful and informative!

    -Lauren Vajentic

  2. Hey Jay! I liked your blog post! I think your comments of flexibility in science were very insightful, as science teachers we have to be as flexible as the thing we teach. Of the foundations of exemplary teaching that you provided, do you have a favorite? Or maybe one that you are struggling to figure out exactly how to implement in the classroom?

  3. Hi Jay!
    I think that your thoughtfulness about education and what science education should be in your classrooms really came through in this blog post. I particularly love what you said about creating a classroom environment that values learning over standards and assessments. Obviously these things are a part of education and play a valuable role, but I think that you said it well that they should not be the only things that matter. (Unfortunately, sometimes that is the case.) I also really enjoyed your focus on flexibility. Far too often you hear that time is fleeting too quickly and the class just needs to move on. I love the fact that you value flexibility and creating different scaffolding to actually help students learn, rather than trying to move on for the sake of time (which we know many times we can find more if we critically look at how it is being spent). Have you ever thought about what flexibility may look like in your classroom? How might you apply this concept to completing real world activities like the one you described above?

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