Ms. Sims Wins Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Teacher of the Year

Picture from Ms. Sims

From creating welcoming learning environments to teaching students in creative ways, ACP-Erie’s teachers stand out from the rest! They share a common desire to  engage students in learning and make a positive impact in their students’ lives. One of our outstanding teachers, Ms. Sims, was just selected by the Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Symposium as the Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Teacher of the Year! The award that Ms. Sims received is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense and recognizes teachers that have dedicated themselves to helping students understand the value of academic research.

In her classroom, as an Honors and AP Biology teacher, Ms. Sims never fails to show her passion for teaching and love of science! She encourages her students to discover areas of science that interest them by offering open-ended assignments and inspiring students to participate in scientific research. To learn more about Ms. Sims, I asked her a few questions about herself and the award:

Q1: How did you feel when you found out that you were selected as the Arizona Junior Science & Humanities Teacher of the Year?

A1: I was absolutely blown away to be given this award! I have been focused on celebrating student research achievement by being involved with judging of science fairs for almost 30 years now. As a former molecular biologist, I was quite passionate about teaching research skills and inspiring kids to follow their interests by asking relevant questions that they could research when I first began teaching 7th-12th grade science classes 12 years ago. One thing I learned early on in teaching College Biology years before was that College Lab Biology students, for the most part, struggled horribly with writing lab reports. So, I set out to make research accessible to high schoolers 12 years ago and became involved with both the “regular” ISEF Science Fair as well as the Arizona Jr. Science and Humanities Symposium, which requires PowerPoint presentations of research to be delivered in a “symposium” format with questioning instead of the trifold board format.

Q2: What is your teaching background?

A2: I taught Biology Lab classes for three years while working on my masters degree in evolutionary molecular biology. I was a T.A. and tutor for Medical Genetics at the University of Utah school of Medicine while I was working on a PhD in Human Genetics. I completed four years of that PhD program, finished my class work in the top 10% of my Molecular Biology PhD class, had several publications, was supported by a research grant from the Human Genome Project, and was the first person to develop human Y-chromosome STR markers while studying the evolutionary history of African Mbuti Pygmies from the Congo. I stopped short of finishing my dissertation, however, in order to have my four kids. I taught SAT strategy classes for Princeton Review for several years in the mid 2000’s then started teaching 7th-12th grade and became an adjunct professor at CGCC in 2008 and 2010 respectively. I taught for two years at ACP Oakland and for the past four years here at ACP Erie. I am so sad to miss this year’s graduation because there are some seniors that I taught 7th grade science to during my first year at ACP-Oakland!

Q3:What do you enjoy most about being a teacher?

A3: I enjoy blowing students’ minds with science. Science is my favorite subject of all — especially the molecular nature of life! It’s impressing on students the incredible intersection where non-living atomic interactions work together through a myriad of chemical reactions to create life. It epitomizes the concept of emergent properties and is the closest thing to magic that I know of! Being able to share my excitement about life itself is an incredible joy and privilege.

Q4: Why did you decide to become a science teacher?

A4: It’s the best science career for a mother of four. I have the same schedule as my kids!

Q5: What are you looking forward to most about teaching science for the upcoming school year?

Picture from Ms. Sims

A6: I am super excited to explore new online opportunities to truly implement a flipped classroom model where the time spent together can be more hands-on!  I’m taking a class in June for teaching AP Bio using different online and in-person modalities, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Q7: What’s a fun fact about yourself?

A7: I am a sci-fi and anime FANGIRL and love to cosplay (dress up) for Phoenix Comicon and Fan Fusion!

Once again, congratulations to Ms. Sims for being selected as the Arizona Junior Science and Humanities Teacher of the Year! Thank you for always going above and beyond as a teacher!