Inspiring today’s youth to maintain a healthy lifestyle is important to Middle School science educator Glenda Poliner. When her passion for life science was born, her goal was to impress upon her students that they possess the power to make the choices that will lead to a long and healthy life for themselves and their families.
While pursuing pre-med at Duke University, Ms. Poliner learned about the unhealthy eating habits that many Americans practice. It made her realize that her motivation lay in the challenge of helping young people maintain good health. Soon after, she added a minor in education to her biology major and thus began her 43-yearlong teaching career.
From the newest scientific discoveries to hands-on labs, Ms. Poliner hopes to equip these young scientists with data and resources to make informed decisions. Students started the 2020–2021 year by testing different soaps, detergents and hand sanitizers to study how they break down fat since a lipid envelope surrounds the coronavirus.
Middle School is a critical time in a student’s life, and Ms. Poliner hopes they look back on their time in her classroom as a time where they could safely be curious and share their ideas. Creating an inclusive environment not only increases student achievement, but it develops a foundation for their future.
In Her Words:
On her influence: “Each unit provides the opportunity for the students to learn about the functioning of their own bodies and discover concepts through scientific experimentation. Through research and discussions, they learn by making choices such as the choice not to smoke, vape or use other dangerous substances, to make wise food choices, to make vigorous exercise part of their daily life, to strive to live sustainably, and to stand up for themselves and their friends when they face pressure. I have been so touched by the students who have returned to campus years later and shared with me that they remember so much from their life science class and that it has made a difference in their lives.
On inclusivity and trust in her classroom: “I build community and trust in my classroom by admitting to my students when I am wrong. This seems to be so straightforward to me, and so it has surprised me how important it has proved to be to the students. This creates an inclusive environment that provides middle schoolers, who by nature are so concerned about the judgment of their peers, with the reassurance that they can safely share their thoughts and ideas.”
On connecting life science to students’ lives: “During my 43-year career teaching science, I have shared with my students information of the newly discovered diseases of HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika, SARS, MERS and COVID-19. I’ve introduced them to science topics in the news, including the Human Genome Project, in vitro fertilization, cloning, stem cell research, CRISPR, climate change, antibiotic resistance, and new vaccines such as those against chickenpox, HPV, hepatitis and COVID-19. I love that the subject matter is so relevant to students’ daily lives, and technology provides teachers with so many opportunities to enrich the students’ learning experience.”
On her favorite LJCDS memory: “All three of my daughters graduated from La Jolla Country Day School. I have so many memories of the stories that they shared about their teachers and classes. Each one of those stories reinforced in my mind that LJCDS was not only the community that has brought me so many friendships, so much meaning and so much joy but also fulfilled that role in my children’s lives.”