Our Teacher Ambassadors are amazing educators doing great work teaching the science of evolution and climate change in places where these topics may be socially controversial. They’re developing and field-testing lessons and providing professional development to colleagues who may be less confident, less prepared, or less comfortable teaching these topics.
Today, we’re featuring Blake Touchet, biology teacher for the Vermilion Parish School District in Louisiana.
What do you teach?
I am currently the Dual Enrollment Biology instructor for the Vermilion Parish School District in Louisiana. I teach biology to seniors from five high schools across the district, and they receive credit from our local college, South Louisiana Community College. This is my ninth year in the classroom and in that time I’ve taught high school biology, environmental science, physical science, anatomy and physiology, first responder, and seventh-grade life science. I also sponsor a Science Club during the school year and run a two-week summer internship at the local hospital for students interested in pursuing medical careers. I love getting students excited about science and helping them connect and apply science knowledge to every aspect of their lives. Showing students how they can use science to solve problems and help their communities is always a major goal for any class that I teach, but I also think that it’s just as important to encourage a lifelong passion for science. I try to teach my students that viewing the world with a scientific mindset and being a consumer of scientific information can be just as beautiful and fulfilling as appreciating literature, poetry, music, or any other form of art they might enjoy as adults.
The theory of evolution is at the same time elegantly simplistic and amazingly complex. My four-year-old son, Luke, can understand how the general process of natural selection works to bring about adaptations in populations. At the same time, there are so many different interactions at every level of biological organization that a scientist may spend his or her entire career studying one species and never unravel all of the minute details of how it has evolved and will continue evolving. In addition to being interesting in its own right, evolution is also necessary for understanding biology. Evolution explains every aspect of the field from cellular physiology to ecological diversity. Attempting to learn biology without evolution is like trying to read an encyclopedia from cover to cover; you may learn a few random things, but it is disjointed, boring, frustrating, and doesn’t make any sense. Using evolution as the unifying explanation is like reading a well-written novel: it’s all connected, the plot flows well, everything fits, and you can even make predictions about what will happen next. Teachers who don’t teach evolution aren’t actually teaching biology—they’re just playing a long game of Trivial Pursuit at the expense of their students.
Why did you become an Ambassador?
I wanted to become an NCSE Teacher Ambassador because I believe that teachers are one another’s best resources. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had amazing mentors and supervisors, and I’ve met an outstanding network of teachers from around my state and the rest of the country. These awesome professionals have helped me every step of the way and taught me so much about what it means to be a good teacher and leader in my own school and community. I’m now in a place in my career where I can start giving back to this professional learning community. I feel both excited and humbled that I now get the chance to share my knowledge, experiences, and passion for teaching evolution with my fellow science teachers. Good teachers never stop learning and sharing, and I owe it to my mentors to continue the tradition of helping new teachers and teachers who may be uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the content to be the best that they can be for their students.
How has NCSE supported you or teachers you know in this work?
Although teachers are hard-working, knowledgeable professionals, it’s impossible for every teacher to be an expert in every field, and we don’t become experts in any one topic overnight. Sometimes teachers are asked to teach things outside of their area of expertise or certification. Sometimes teachers have lots of content knowledge, but lack the pedagogical knowledge to teach a particular group of students. Sometimes a teacher just needs fresh ideas for lessons or activities to more effectively reach his or her class. Sometimes a teacher has all these things, but may be unfamiliar with the laws or standards governing the teaching of a certain topic in her state. Organizations like NCSE help teachers in all these situations. I’ve sought knowledge, resources, activities, and advice from NCSE and I have referred other teachers to NCSE for the same. I look forward to helping the organization take a more active role in reaching out to teachers and making them aware of all the amazing resources that are available to help them be successful.