Recruiting for STEM is primarily focused on high school and college-age students but fifth-grade teacher Ansley Keiser has a different perspective. She believes it is possible to inspire elementary students to not just love science but to visualize themselves as scientists (she even wears a lab coat while teaching science as a nod to the profession). By encouraging critical thinking skills and facilitating daily hands-on experiential learning opportunities in her classroom, Ansley is filling the roster of future STEM jobs with GAC students.
Her tactic of piquing students’ interest in STEM fields early is one that will have long-term outcomes: Of those who pursue STEM-related work, 63% get paid more than someone with a bachelor's degree in anything else. Even more impressive--47% of people with a bachelor's degree in a STEM field make more than people with a Ph.D. in other areas. These students may be at the beginning of their academic careers, but when they are able to blend their young imaginative minds with the tools they will need in the future, Ansley believes it takes them further.
Hands-on learning is the norm in Ansley’s class. From the much-anticipated pig heart dissections to virtual reality goggle tours of the heart during a heart attack to elephant toothpaste creations using complex chemical reactions, students can be sure to get the differentiated and innovative activities they need to become better thinkers. “I don’t like worksheets in the early grades. Instead, I prefer to provide experiential learning opportunities for my students. They create to apply what they are learning. I believe this is how students learn best, and these activities ensure that all students can achieve and reach their fullest potential.” This stems from one of Ansley’s core beliefs about teaching. “Children need to create. They are creators, reflecting the Great Creator who made them in His image.” Ansley, too, finds that she has the most joy in her work when she is creating something. While at Gaston Christian School in North Carolina, she wrote a 100-page book called The Writing Workbook for 9th Graders to serve as a resource for students looking to improve their writing.
After staying home for 17 years to raise her four children, Ansley returned to the classroom, and she’s now hitting her stride after 13 years of teaching in both public and private schools. “The best is yet to come,” she says. She is in school, currently pursuing a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Georgia College and State University. She already holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Georgia. She currently teaches 5th grade Bible, science, and language arts.
GAC is more than a workplace for Ansley. “This school holds so much meaning for me. It’s where I went to school, where I met and dated my husband, and where I now have the privilege of teaching in the elementary school. Teaching at GAC is like coming ‘home.’ I’m so proud to tell others that I teach at GAC. Its reputation is second-to-none. GAC’s educational standards are aligned K-12 to surpass both national and GA State standards. Also, learning experiences are designed to meet the educational needs of all students. Most importantly, the curriculum at GAC is taught from a Christian perspective.”
“GAC is obsessed with finding a better way in all things. Our approach is innovative pedagogy, superior curriculum, and differentiated learning opportunities that develop the potential of all students with varied learning styles. Educators are well-educated, experienced, and creative, and they truly care about their students’ minds, bodies, and souls.” This is such an apt description of who Ansley is as an educator, and her students and GAC have much to benefit.