Jacqueline (Jackie) Katz is the Library’s 2022–23 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator. The fellowship program appoints accomplished K–12 teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the STEM fields — to collaborate with federal agencies and congressional offices in advancing STEM education. She has taught biology and chemistry at Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey, for the past 10 years.
She began working with the Library last September. Since then, she’s been deeply investigating Library materials related to science education–drawing on physical, digitized, and born-digital materials alike! Thanks to the Library’s Timeless Blog, where this interview was initially published, for letting us share Jackie’s story with Signal readers.
What drew you to science teaching?
I grew up dancing, and it always fascinated me that the actions of microscopic cells and molecules allow for the macroscopic actions of a dancer.
In high school, I felt as if I did not get a chance to develop an understanding of how this connection is possible, so I majored in biochemistry as an undergrad. About halfway through undergrad, I started tutoring and encountered another fascinating puzzle: How can you present scientific information to people who do not process it the same way you do?
Tutoring showed me I could combine my curiosities surrounding the physical abilities of organisms and people’s cognitive abilities as a science teacher. I enrolled in a teacher certification program and figured I would see what happened. Ten years later, I am continually learning new things.
What resources at the Library have captivated you?
In one of my first weeks at the Library, Lee Ann Potter, director of Professional Learning and Outreach Initiatives, took me to meet Manuscript Division historian Josh Levy. He showed me corn kernel samples from the papers of molecular biologist Nina Fedoroff.
The samples made me reflect on the many doors that corn research has opened in the sciences and its major role in our food systems. I then set off on a corn-themed rabbit hole that has taught me so much.
Many of the Library’s collections contain evidence of experiments that outline the evolutionary journey from teosinte, corn’s wild ancestor, to modern-day corn. These experiments were carried out by scientific characters such as Luther Burbank (the Library has his papers) and George Beadle. These stories of corn can be used to help students understand that science is a human endeavor that relates to economics, politics and society.
What are your stand-out projects so far?
Part of Fedoroff’s collection is born digital, and I worked with Chad Conrady and Kathleen O’Neil of the Manuscript Division to emulate older versions of software Fedoroff used to view documents. Opening some files required a bit of detective work, but we were ultimately able to view Excel spreadsheets of raw data, images taken with scanning microscopes and DNA sequences. I am very excited to bring these resources into the classroom and have my students think like Federoff.
Another project I have been working on in collaboration with Eileen Jakeway Manchester of LC Labs focuses on data as a primary source. I have been able to explore the selected datasets collection and unearth some interesting spreadsheets that will provide students with great opportunities to develop their data literacy.
Both of these projects have expanded what I thought was possible with the Library’s resources.
How are you sharing the resources you’ve discovered with other teachers?
As a part of the PLOI team, I have been given many opportunities to share.
One major outlet is the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. A blog series now underway explores concepts that traverse all disciplines of science and suggests how primary sources can help elevate these concepts in the classroom.
I also presented at the National Council for Social Studies conference in early December. The ability to get feedback from other teachers in real time has been extremely helpful in my journey. I am looking forward to presenting at several other conferences in the spring and heading back to my home district for a workshop in February.
What do you wish more STEM educators knew about the Library?
I wish more STEM educators saw the Library as a hub of interdisciplinary learning. There are so many rich conversations that can be had surrounding the resources at the Library. Students need to incorporate knowledge from multiple disciplines to make sense of a primary source. The prospect of this type of interdisciplinary thinking has been incredibly motivating to me as a teacher.
I would urge other teachers to come to the Library to expand the way they think about their content area. You never know what you will find and the connections that can be made.
Subscribe to the Signal blog— it’s free!