What’s the secret to succeeding in school? If you ask teacher Karen McMullen, it’s about giving students the confidence that they can solve challenging questions. If you ask her students, they say it’s having a gifted teacher who has dedicated her life to making science fun to learn.
McMullen has taught sciences for the past 22 years, with an emphasis on physics and chemistry for the past decade. A few of her students have even scored 100% in their physics diploma exams. Not all students, however, have a passion for equations. Many enter her classroom uninterested in physics, so McMullen takes extra care to make course material meaningful to them, and, most importantly, to have fun learning in the classroom.
Take Brandon Borden, for example. “I sat at the back of the classroom, bored with the material, and more interested in my calculator,” he says. “Mrs. McMullen moved me to the front of the class and directed me to more challenging questions. She even organized a trip to the University of Alberta to go and perform experiments.” Borden developed such a passion for physics that he applied for a Scholarship to attend a Summer School for Young Physicists in Ontario, and will be attending the University of Alberta this fall in the Faculty of Engineering.”
Not all students find it easy to master chemistry and physics. Student Janelle Foreman says that McMullen makes herself available to struggling students. “She’s always in a good mood and brings a positive attitude to class. She makes me feel that the material isn’t impossible and challenges us to succeed.”
McMullen’s dedication has caught the attention of The Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta (APPEGA), where her students nominated her for an Outstanding Math and Science Teacher Award.
She didn’t know that she had been nominated. She says teaching kids is its own reward. “I get the thrill of seeing kids develop,” McMullen says.