Katie McCann not only wants to teach science, she is
committed to teaching it in a rural Maine high school like the one
she attended. She’ll do that with the help of a prestigious
five-year fellowship she was awarded this past spring from the
Knowles Science Teaching Foundation. "I feel rural districts don’t
get as much attention as urban ones," she says. "There’s still a
pretty big need for good teachers and educational development."
Above all, McCann wants to share her love of science — physics, in
particular — when she’s in the classroom. She’ll do that by making
sure to connect the concepts and the students.
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Love of physics
Katie McCann was 5 when she fell in love with science. Inspired
by each edition of Your Big Backyard, then Ranger Rick,
she headed outdoors and "checked stuff out."
That thrill of discovery stayed with her through middle school, when
astrophysics became her passion. But in high school, McCann hit a
self-described rough patch. Classes in chemistry and physics were
uninteresting, mostly because they didn't seem to have real-world
The experience left her uncertain about her course of study at
Northeastern University. Ultimately, she found biomedical physics and
collaborated on research at Brigham and Women's Hospital focused on
neurodevelopment of the preterm infant brain. In particular, she studied
cerebral fluid flow as a possible indicator of brain injury or defect.
McCann's rediscovery of her love of science occurred because her
coursework was driven more by concepts and theory than by formulas and
prescribed experimental outcomes.
"I began thinking more deeply about the huge underlying concepts that
are so amazing and beautiful," she says. "And I like that there may be
more than one way to solve a problem. You may not remember the
equations, but if you know the basics, you can solve the problem. That's
where the beauty comes in."
McCann's undergraduate experience could have led her to pursue graduate
work and a job in industry or research. But that was not an option, she
"I wanted a career, so I'm going into teaching," McCann says. "For me,
it's the difference between a job and fulfillment."
Last year, McCann enrolled in the University of Maine's Center for
Science and Mathematics Education Research, which supports scientists
and mathematicians committed to teaching. As a master's student, she's
studying how students learn physics in an inquiry-based curriculum.
"An inquiry-based curriculum is so much more effective than lecturing to
students," she says. "When the lab precedes what the teacher talks
about, the discussion is more dynamic and students have more input."
McCann not only wants to teach science, she is committed to teaching it
in a rural Maine high school like the one she attended. She'll do that
after she finishes her graduate work with the help of a prestigious
five-year fellowship she was awarded this past spring from the Knowles
Science Teaching Foundation.