Why I'm lucky to teach... {w/ iTeachSTEM}

This month's topic?
It's a no-brainer for me...
My favorite subject has always been science!
And at my school I am super lucky to get to be the STEM teacher for all of fifth grade!
Um, iTeachSTEM, ya know?

So today I'm going to share the top 5 reasons why I feel LUCKY to teach fifth grade STEM.

5th graders are so much fun!
My darling friend, Mary Ann, will disagree with me until the end of time on this point, but fifth graders are the best age to teach. She swears that the only reason she teaches after school tutoring to my fifth graders is to remind herself of how much she DOESN'T like the big kids!

But I LOVE them!

I like fifth graders because they are old enough to "get" my sarcasm and cheesy jokes (a necessity in order to survive in my classroom). I think if I was teaching kindergarten, most of the kids would be crying after a few minutes. Especially since I introduce myself every year as a person who hates little kids. (Harsh, right? But it grabs my fifth graders' attentions. They can't believe I'm a teacher who doesn't like kids.

I like fifth graders because they are old enough to really do some exciting activities. Despite the fact that I still have to repeat instructions like 5,000 times a day, they can generally read well enough that I can give oral and written directions as well as model strategies and then they can figure out the rest. And when it comes to anything techy? They are WAY beyond me in that department. They usually end up teaching ME a few things. Like when we did our ThingLink Introductions at the beginning of the school year. After the first few minutes it became painfully clear that I didn't need to teach THEM how to use the app. They were showing ME the cool features instead. Despite feeling like an old lady (lol) I still love this activity. Feel free to grab a copy - just click on the picture below!
I like fifth graders because they are old enough to tie their own shoes, blow their own noses, and open their own lunch foods. I actually walk through the cafeteria with my fifth graders and try my best NOT to make eye contact with any kindergartners. If I do, one of them will raise their hand and ask me to help them open their yogurt or want to hug me with ketchup covered hands. Blech. You're laughing at me now...I know. But MY students know which bus to get on at the end of the day. It's so much less stressful during dismissal time.

I totally LOVE the fifth grade science curriculum!
I love the topics that I am assigned to teach to students. From cells and photosynthesis, to genetic traits, to force and motion, to the solar system. I love it all! (To be honest, I still struggle with LOVING to teach about weather.) What I love most about my curriculum is that almost HALF of the year is spent on physical science concepts. I love physics and have so much fun developing lessons and challenges for students to learn from and implement their knowledge.

I am passionate about science. I love it so much. So inspiring even my most reluctant students to love science is incredibly rewarding. When I see their eyes light up after FINALLY understanding a concept, it's the best feeling ever. And I love the sweet notes and comments I get from them.

Chloe: You make science EASY. Well, sometimes it's still hard, but mostly easy.

Carter: (to his mom after a day I had a sub) STEM class just wasn't the same today.

Ella made this poster for my room:
"Mrs. Coker is the very bestest teacher. She is worth more than diamonds. Her lessons grab you like a good TV show and then it goes on commercials. She is the best no matter what she is doing. No matter what people say I will always love her!"

Careers in STEM related fields are a "family thing"!
My dad is a professor at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. Before that, he taught at George Washington University. When I was still living at home, he was a professor in the kinesiology department at Indiana University. (Teaching is in my blood. So is science.)

My step-dad spent his life working as an architect. His primary focus was on designing structures for medical and educational related businesses. Hospitals, schools, research facilities.

My son is currently a student at Austin Peay University and is double majoring in Physics and Mathematics. The other night I called him and he was busy reading a book about nuclear physics! His plan is to get his masters in nuclear engineering. #proudmama
Apparently my son also shares my love of sarcasm...

So I don't really find it surprising that I ended up being a teacher. Specifically a STEM teacher. It's just part of the family business!

I actually get to teach ALL of the subjects!
I blogged about my favorite subject to teach back in September for Teacher Week.
Check it out here if you're interested.
The short version?
I spend every day teaching science content while integrating other subjects.

For example, students could use RLA strategies to close read an article, summarize the main points, and develop a well written argument based on what we have learned in class and the data they have collected during an investigation.

Another example of one of my most favorite integrated lessons was about gravity, forces, mass, and distance...

I took students outside and they completed the standing long jump (just like in PE class) and measured each distance to the nearest half-inch. They recorded their distances in a chart as decimal numbers so the data could be used in further calculations.
After collecting the data (which was more fun than I thought it would be), the students worked with their group to calculate the average jump distance for each group member. Then they calculated the distance they would be able to jump if they were on the moon. Since the moon has 1/6 the mass of earth, this required multiplication of each number by 6. Finally, students converted their "moon jump" distances to feet, which required them to divide decimal numbers by 12. Since so many of them ended up with remainders, we also discussed how to determine whether to round up or not based on the remainder. I have never seen students so actively engaged in doing math problems before. It was so exciting!

STEM Challenges...duh!
I know not every teacher looks forward to having their classroom temporarily destroyed.
But I kinda do! In fact, the first unit I teach each year is "Introduction to the Engineering Design Process" during which students learn about each component of STEM and actually use the engineering design steps to complete a team building challenge. Students practice cooperation, collaboration, brainstorming, planning, construction, data collection, and presentation all while having fun!
I see it as a "creative mess" while students are busily working to develop a solution to a specific problem. Sure, my classroom is a wreck. Sure, there is constantly bits of supplies laying around the room. Sure, my custodian is probably sick of it. But I LOVE it! I've seen this meme all over the internet and it actually describes my classroom during a STEM Challenge perfectly!

To be fair, it's kind of like my Christmas decorations. It's exciting when I get them all out and decorate the house at the beginning of the month, but by December 26 the clutter is really starting to get to me. And I LOVE the clean and organized feeling I get when I put them all away for the next year. So after a STEM Challenge, I like cleaning the classroom and putting everything back in its place. Peace at last!

And there you have it, folks! The top 5 reasons I think I am LUCKY to teach fifth grade STEM.
Check out why some of these other teachers feel lucky to teach... 


  1. I love reading your posts and seeing the passion you have for teaching! I could not do the big kids, but I'm glad you love it!

    1. Like I told Greg...we need teachers with a passion for the little ones too!