Happy National STEM/STEAM Day! To celebrate we have a new round of Extraordinary Educators we want you to meet. This week we’re introducing you to Nita Canon, Afzal Khan, and Candace Scott. These three teachers are STEM teachers who prepare our students with the science, technology, engineering, and math skills they need to succeed in our community as future innovators, healthcare professionals, researchers, and more. Read below to find out how these teachers inspire creativity and curiosity in their students each and every day.
“This is what I tell my students… Create a vision in your mind and be passionate about it. Aim to be the best you can be. Not a single day without preparation. Organize and prioritize. Never give up – take every opportunity to learn and be ready to adapt to changes!”
Nita Canon teaches CTE (Career and Technical Education) health science at Southwest Guilford High School and was nominated as an Extraordinary Educator by her principal, Mike Hettenbach.
“Nita empowers students to promote wellness behaviors in their community,” he says.
Nita says that her biggest encouragement and inspiration each day is seeing her students laugh and learn while staying motivated to excel. As the proud mother of several Southwest graduates, Nita is dedicated to see the students flourish during their educational journey in High Point.
“Our vision is to prepare students to be collaborative lifelong learners, and responsible citizens,” Nita says. “Southwest excels not only in students’ academic achievement but in sports, music, arts, and CTE. We are one of six GCS schools working to boost minority student enrollment to AP classes.”
Nita, a former nurse, loves using her experience to demonstrate to her students how what they are learning in the classroom has real-world implications. And Nita has seen that even at the high school level, many of her students are already applying what they have learned in her classrooms to their world.
“A student once shared with me an incident regarding her sister who was complaining of abdominal pain,” Nita says. The student’s sister was sent home from her doctor with some pain medication, but the pain and symptoms became increasingly severe.
“At this point, my student told her mom that she learned from health science class that the symptoms can be indicative of acute appendicitis, and she was eventually rushed to the hospital,” Nita explains. “True enough, after doing a CT scan, her sister had an emergency appendectomy (surgical removal of appendix) that same night! My student later told me that because of that incident, she plans to be a Physician Assistant in the future.”
As the HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) advisor at Southwest, Nita continuously emphasizes community engagement to her students, and together they have volunteered hundreds of hours to projects all over the Triad, like the American Heart Association, the National Down Syndrome Society and Greater Greensboro DS, National Alliance for Mental Illness, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and more.
Check out Nita’s Amazon Wish List!
“I learned to build relationships and reflect on nurturing a student to make education relevant.”
As the science teacher at The Middle College at GTCC-High Point, Afzal Khan works with high school students who are taking college courses as they complete their high school requirements.
“As a cooperative, innovative high school, we accommodate learning to suit the needs of all students,” Afzal explains. “Being a late start school with goals of graduating 100% of its students exemplifies how we structure school so that students succeed.”
Afzal was nominated by his principal, Darrell A. Harris Jr., who says that Afzal is, “Eager to support kids through Saturday tutoring and summer remediation – anything that is needed to help.”
Afzal says that his biggest encouragement comes from the handwritten notes and positive feedback his students give him about keeping his classroom environment fun, upbeat, and interesting.
“When students greet you with a smile or leave comments on your desk like, ‘five-star teacher’ or ‘best teacher, funny and knows how to keep class interesting,’ it shows that you are making a difference in their education as they appreciate what you teach them.”
Afzal has also seen firsthand how some of his students need support that goes well beyond the classroom, such as one student whom he discovered was lacking in basic necessities to succeed in school.
“I contacted a student’s parents for academic reasons only to find out that the student is a refugee,” he says. “The student was lacking resources to sustain a balance between education and the family’s survival for basic needs. From this experience I learned to build relationships and reflect on nurturing a student to make education relevant.”
With this above and beyond attitude, Afzal has been responsible for coordinating everything from a Thanksgiving drive for students to give to West End Ministries, to spirit week. He has helped his students display their Pride of the Lions through dodgeball, service learning, and even support on computer and networking troubleshooting at the Middle College, thanks to his PC Technician certification from Microsoft.
“‘Many eyes are watching young and old.’ Hearing parents of former students say that seeing a young African American teacher inspired them to go back to school to obtain their advanced degree is moving. Living the life that God has set for me and being transparent in my walk has touched more lives than I could’ve ever imagined. Walking in my purpose is what I will continue to do.”
As the math coach and K-5 STEM teacher at Oak View Elementary School, Candace Scott has been serving as an educator for the past 13 years and has already taught over 200 students. Candace was nominated by her principal, Heather Bare, who calls Candace an “educational leader of students and colleagues with heart and commitment.”
Candace says that each day she is excited to walk into her classroom because she sees teaching as more than an occupation, she sees it as her mission.
“Developing creative, engaging instructional experiences for students, and coaching teachers with effective instructional strategies and practices motivates me to continue doing what I have been called to do,” Candace says. “I am on a personal mission to get students excited about learning and implement strategies to instill confidence in their academic ability.”
Candace, who emphasizes community service and engagement in her classroom, has cultivated this mission-focused mindset as a response to the lack of engagement she experienced across the private and public school sector growing up. Rather than become bitter, Candace decided she would pursue a career as an educator to provide students with the experience she wished she’d had.
“Being a product of classrooms with limited student engagement, no sense of community and the lack of confidence in my academic ability, empowered me to be the teacher that strived to change that for every student who entered into my classroom,” she explains. “Building relationships with students and their families is essential in building a positive classroom community.”
Candace says her principal and others at Oak View make it possible for her to execute multimodal and creative classroom activities. With a Maker Space STEM Learning Lab in place, as well as being named an Arts Integration School, Oak View is, in Candace’s words, “committed to educating future leaders!”
“Making the creative connection was key to hooking students into learning experiences. It was not shocking to hear singing, see dancing/movement or even smell cooking from my classroom that all connected to the NC Standards,” she says. “Who said learning can’t be fun yet rigorous and relevant?”
Check out Candace’s Amazon Wish List!
Discovering our High Points,
Photography by Maria West Photography