Turn & Talk with Peter Wilson Cowiestoll, 6th Grade Science Teacher STRIVE Prep – Federal
- What do you love about teaching science?
The answer to what I love about teaching, and what I love about teaching science are quite different. My biggest love for teaching overall stems from the enjoyment I get from spending time with kids. There are many different ways to illectualize it, but it all comes down to the fact that I think kids are fun to be around. As for teaching science, I really appreciate and enjoy that the focus of my content is on asking and answering questions. That is an intrinsically fun and accessible starting point, and it allows you to go in many different directions.
- Did you always plan on being a teacher?
This is a funny question, because I had zero plans of ever going into education. I have educators in my family, and while I won’t say that I was actively planning against it, 16-year-old-me didn’t look at their jobs and think ‘I gotta get into that game. That looks cushy.’ I came to teaching somewhat reluctantly: In my first job, I led backbacking and canoeing trips for teenages, and at that point I thought it was my destiny to be a wilderness guide. I slowly came to realize that what I enjoyed most from that job was working with kids, and the guiding was just a nice bonus. From there, I took a job teaching small group math instruction, just to check my gut before diving into Grad school for education and eventually a classroom teaching job. I took my time getting into this profession, but I’m glad that I did – on the hard days, I have confidence that it’s the right place for me.
- Why do you choose to teach at STRIVE Prep – Federal?
There are so many answers to this question, and what comes first to my mind changes year to year. From our school’s community in SW Denver, to professional mentorship, to the chance to try something new and exciting, there are many reasons that contribute to why I choose to teach at STRIVE Prep – Federal. In the current context of remote teaching, the skill of my co-workers comes to the forefront of my mind. At the beginning of my teaching career, when I was learning so many new skills from the ground up, I could feel my growth daily. After the first few years, as I moved beyond the ‘beginner’s learning curve’, I could feel my progress start to slow. That’s when the importance of working with such skilled colleagues really hit me. If I’m hitting a roadblock in my teaching practice, I have school’s worth of deeply skilled professionals from whom I can seek advice and feedback; I have never felt ‘stuck’ in my growth as a teacher at Federal, and that’s a huge part of why I love working here.
- What are some words of advice you would share with an aspiring/new science teacher?
What I love about this question is that if you ask 10 different teachers, you’ll get 10 wildly different responses. There are so many different ways that teachers approach their work, and the off handed advice we give frequently tells more about our individual mindset and approach more than some larger truism about teaching. That being said, here’s my crack at it: If you’re an aspiring teacher, find something about the job that is fun. Really, truly, ‘I’d do this for free’, you can’t help but smile, levels of fun. Don’t shy away from that thing – embrace it, show off that joy, and use it as your foundation. That joy will be the basis of why students trust you, why they will enjoy and learn in your class. There are so many skills that new teachers have to learn when they first start that it’s scarily easy to get into a deficit mindset with your teaching. That’s why I think it’s important to hold in your mind, and make space for, the parts of teaching that put a genuine smile on your face. Let those parts of teaching be your motivation.