Hashtag WORTH IT


I love my job. No, I really love my job. Yes, I get to play but I get to inspire. Everyday I make a difference in a young person’s life (sometimes a seasoned teacher’s life too, sshhh don’t tell anyone).  I inspire children because of all the struggles I have gone through and  I inspire children because of all the successes I have had and am still having.

This past week has been no exception in the ups and down part. Lucky for me the down happened first and the up is how it ends…. kinda like my life. 

Shortened version…..Applications for presenting at NSTA’s conference need to be submitted about a year in advance. So last March, my friend and teacher partner, Darrell Williams, put together a proposal for NSTA’ Boston conference.  We were accepted! Image

Only money was limited for me and I had to fund raise by crowd sourcing via gofundme.com. Through generous donations from family, friends, my district, AND complete strangers, I was able to raise enough money to go to Boston. However, my partner was not able to join me as his wife is about to have a baby any minute. Up and down… Got accepted to present at a National Convention, but  not enough money to go….. get the money to go but my partner can’t go… Still I persevere.  


Digress Alert: Darrell and I met at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab in the ACTS program (Academies Creating Teacher Scientists) sponsored by the Department of Energy. The program was supposed to be a 3 year program but for us it was cut after the first year (ups and downs) but we were allowed to still pursue to a trip with NASA and PPPL to bring and experiment up in zero-g (yes, the vomit comet). That experience changed the way I teach and most likely my life. I realized that I don’t do REAL science in class. Yes we do experiments but we all know how they end…. real science isn’t like that. I wanted my students to experience real science like I did designing my experiment for zero-g. Designing and building and testing and redesigning and testing… so in chatting with another zero-g alum, Sophia Gershman, we came up with a project-based learning unit that I could use with my students. Hence the Shoebox Project was born (aka This Efficient House). Darrell came up with other PBL units he made. Between Darrell and I, we decided we had some best practices among us and should share them…. we first did at the New Jersey Science Teacher Convention. 

I had been struggling this year with continuing the project…. until I had the opportunity to do home instruction for a former student.  A few years back he had no qualms about how he felt about the shoebox project. He hated it… it was stupid, we weren’t learning anything…. and years later, I went to his home and the first thing he said to me was….. I still have my shoebox project! I was shocked. It was that moment that you hear about…. I really was making a difference and I got to hear about it! I had to wipe my teacher tear from my eye! I mean, I knew that I had kids who were lower level who worked so darn hard on this project… that they asked to work on it during lunch and at home…. but to hear how it effected a child years later, that was totally awesome…So I knew I had something with this project that I could share. 

ImageAnd I’m BACK: I overcame a few obstacles to get to Boston, but I did it! Ups and downs… So many ups from this trip though. I’m glad I was one of the first time slots so I could enjoy the rest of my time attending workshops and meeting new people. I met a 3rd year teacher who was interested in flipping his class. Djems Domerson good luck in flipping that class!!! You have more courage than I did as a 3rd year teacher. I also met PJ Simon from DuPont. She and I are going to collaborate on some things … she just doesn’t know it yet.  I also met some awesome Bostonians: James you rocked my son’s world by surprising him with birthday cake and ice cream and we weren’t even staying at your hotel! And Dan from the Museum of Science, playing Happy Birthday on the Van de Graaf made his year!


So cool that my other son called out, “Hashtag: Worth It.” I will not be able to top this birthday for him. The next day I met Michael the editor of Nautilus Magazine who asked to interview ME. Yes indeed, this trip, with all of it’s struggles is aptly named “Hashtag: WORTH IT.”




Presentation: Well my family said it was awesome. They came with me to set up and help out. And that they did. Thank you! ImageImageImageImageImageImage


Workshops… all the workshops I attended were fantastic as were the vendors. I learned so much more about NGSS and flipping that I’m ready and rejuvenated. 

But the real word I’m coming out of this experienceImage as is EMPOWERED. I am empowered. I am ready. I am a super hero. I am inspired and inspiring. I am a teacher. And I have much for which to be grateful. #worthit



About Hillyer

I'm a passionate 7th grade science teacher looking to inspire others.
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