Bringing science to life is second nature to Heidi Albin, a science teacher at Complete High School Maize (CHSM), an alternative school that educates students in grades 9-12 who struggled in a traditional high school setting. Albin’s effect, permeating beyond the classroom walls and into the school’s culture, is changing lives.
Her first priority is to make her students scientists. Albin designed a self-paced, multi-science curriculum with numerous programs and real-life experiences that deeply engage them while teaching ownership, responsibility and character. Her community garden enables students and their “partners”—retirement home residents—to work side-by-side and learn gardening skills and ecology. An agricultural program, including chick hatching and husbandry, demonstrates biology, while her partnership with WILD Kansas (a student organization focusing on outdoor education activities) promotes the environment and conservation. When surveyed, 23 percent of her students said they were interested in science before taking her class. That percentage increased to 82 percent after experiencing Albin’s innovative instruction and activities.
Additionally, Albin set aside a service day for students to volunteer within the community, and raised funds to acquire Kinsey, a therapy dog, as an opportunity to help students cope with depression and anxiety. Loving and being loved by Kinsey has unified students and teachers, leading to a less stressful environment aiding in academic success and student retention.
When Albin discovered students lacked hope about their future, she implemented an individualized plan of study for each student that included classes to take, potential careers, guest speakers, job shadows and interview preparation skills. Not only did the students’ future perceptions and self-worth develop, so did concrete parts of their learning such as improved attendance, reduced dropouts and increased graduation rates. Ninety-five percent of her students graduate high school and 92 percent are either employed or enrolled in higher education five years after graduation.
Albin’s initiatives make a difference in her school, district and across the state. She shares her science curriculum with other schools in the district and statewide, and co-authored “186 Days of Curriculum,” a yearlong, cross-curricular and character-building program she implemented at CHSM, which the state shared with hundreds of educators throughout Kansas to adopt. Albin has presented at state and national conferences about her science curriculum and character-building programs.
Albin received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. In 2009, she earned a Bachelor of Science in biology, cum laude, with an emphasis on cellular molecular biology and a minor in chemistry. In 2013, she obtained a Master of Science in Education.
Press release: Kansas Science Teacher wins $25,000 Milken Educator Award
My dream is to some day start alternative schools in the United States and Denmark.
"Success is showing love to my students and other people, in whatever way I can. When life is over, that is all that lasts." —..." (read more)
Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching