Position: Science Teacher
School: Conniston Middle School
School District: Palm Beach County School District
City, State: West Palm Beach, FL
Stephanie Killingsworth was nominated by member of the community, Amanda Sorrell.
Ms. Killingsworth graduated college as a scientist and worked in the operating rooms assisting doctors with new orthopedic devices. She wanted to start a family, so she ended up adopting three children from Columbia; calling it her "Instant Family." This led her to teaching, wanting her kids and other kids to have real life experiences. Ms. Killingsworth has only been teaching for four years, but her story is truly amazing.
Ms. Killingsworth has been able to get middle schoolers beyond the walls of the classroom, piquing their interests in STEM careers. Her students have been exposed to college laboratories and many other types of field work. She constantly has special guest speakers in the classroom to teach the children about different careers, such as Dr. Mcfadden from UF, orthopedic surgeons, and hydrogeologists. She hosts "Meet the Scientist" night at school every week, and has been able to arrange Skype sessions with scientists from all over the world.
Ms. Killingsworth has been able to take the students shark tagging, taking fin clippings and learning different diet changes. She even arranged a day to clean up the beaches with her students. On one specific trip, 100 students helped clean up 250,000 lbs of plastic on the coast of Florida.
One year, she wanted to focus on the country of India and their clean water supply challenges. This project started with the students learning about how human life impacts the world, and morphed into a bigger service learning piece. They were able to fund raise $10,000 for the "Water for People Non-Profit" for India. They focused on this country because of the intense population, water cleanliness, water scarcity and instructor issues. They worked with hydrogeologists in India and were able to help create solutions for a remote village in west Bengal.
Ms. Killingsworth was able to get the first school board approved and school backed international field trip for Palm Beach County. Both current and former students were then able to travel to India. To help finance the field trip, she had her students create different products to sell. They designed t-shirts, sold sugar scrubs, soaps, poinsettia, jewelry, and ornaments throughout the year. Each kid received $1000 for travel expenses. This experience led them into their next trips all over the world.
In 2018-2019, she has a group of students going to Madrid, Spain in March. The students are learning about the bubonic plague - how it effected language, arts and architecture, and how it was transmitted. In June, another group of students are going to the Galapagos Islands, where they will learn about Earth History, Plate tectonics, and Charles Darwin. In 2019, she has a group of students going to the Grand Canyon to learn about geology and land sediments. Another group is going to Peru and Iceland to study plate tectonics.
"She leads the children in helping them believe they have the power and ability to do anything," Sorrell said. "The list of things she has been able to get these kids experiences in is truly overwhelming! She is truly an inspiring teacher."