It takes a special skill set to be a science teacher and Begich Middle School’s Rebecca Zerby breaks the mold.

Zerby brings a special energy and enthusiasm to her seventh grade science class, encouraging students to ask questions, problem solve and dream big.

“I like teaching a lot because it gives an opportunity to really like, be a part of the community. That’s a big part of why I became a teacher,” Zerby said. “I really have a passion for science and inquiry and getting the kids involved in, you know, why are things the way they are, and asking questions, and not being afraid to ask questions and investigate.”

This is only Zerby’s second year teaching, but you’d think she was a seasoned veteran. She moved to Alaska from Texas and says she immediately fell in love with the community, specifically East Anchorage.

Zerby believes that asking questions is very important. Her students put their problem solving skills to the test with fun, yet challenging projects.

“Right now we’re working on a roller coaster project, and I believe most seventh grade classes in the district do this,” she said. “They build roller coasters over a series of weeks, just out of paper and tape and they’re exploring potential and kinetic energy and transformations between them.”

The subject matter is complex, but these projects help simplify the process of understanding. When students complete projects, Zerby displays their work for all of her classes to see.

“We try to keep it pretty lively in here,” Zerby said. “And, you know, displaying the kids work is really important so they no they don’t just turn something in and it just disappears into a grading box and it makes them really proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

Zerby says she’s driven by a love for science, but it’s her love of community that helps her connect with students on a more personal level. She coaches volleyball at Begich and is also a "Girls Riding Into Tomorrow" mentor to young girls interested in bicycling.

“It’s a great opportunity to really bond with the kids outside of the classroom. It’s less stress environment,” she said. “The kids are doing something, you know, that they are passionate about, they’re there because they want to be there. We have a saying here at Begich that relationships matter most, so I became a coach and a 'GRIT' mentor, you know, to help build those relationships.”

Whether building confidence on a bike or in the science lab, Zerby is dedicated to seeing her students’ lives improve. Her message to students is deep, yet simple.

“It’s okay to ask questions,” she said. “You don’t always have to be right. You know, it’s good to investigate and figure out why things are the way they are and really question the system that we live in, and that’s okay in science. You’re not always right. As long as you have data and you’re able to communicate that data, then you can be an effective member of society.”

Inspiring growth and fostering wonder by encouraging her students to be their best selves, Rebecca Zerby is KTVA’s Head of the Class.

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