LFCDS teacher is an inspiration
Elizabeth Ross (right), a science teacher at Lake Forest Country Day School, received a national award for outstanding teaching. LFCDS student Cameron Wacker and Head of Lower School Sally Bullard submitted essays on her behalf. | Submitted photo
NAME: Elizabeth Ross
BEST KNOWN AS: Science teacher at Lake Forest Country Day School
DISTINCTION: Named Sigma Xi Outstanding Science Teacher of the Year
Updated: August 27, 2012 8:02AM
LAKE FOREST — When Elizabeth Ross attended Lake Forest College for her teaching degree in science, she was advised by some professors to become a high school teacher instead of focusing on elementary education.
That way she’d be able to better use her double major in biology and education, and there’d be more job opportunities.
After Ross thought about it, she decided against that advice.
“I remember when I was in high school, a lot of my friends had already decided what their favorite subjects were,” Ross said. “So when I thought about inspiring kids to like science, I thought I should teach elementary school kids before they have decided.”
That choice paid off in May when Ross, a science teacher at Lake Forest Country Day School, received the annual Sigma Xi 2012 Elementary School Outstanding Science and/or Math Teacher of the Year. The North Carolina-based Sigma Xi is an international research society that annually recognizes notable elementary, middle school and high school science and math teachers.
After filling out a Sigma Xi awards application at the behest of school administrators and submitting an essay by one of her students, the award was bestowed upon her, just one year after she graduated from college.
“It was a true honor,” Ross said. “It solidified the idea that I’d made the right decision (to go into teaching) and that this is what I need to be doing with my life right now.”
Unlike many elementary schools, LFCDS sends its students to a separate science class outside of their main classrooms, she said. Ross spends her days teaching science to many grade levels, including kindergarten.
In her third-grade class this year, she helped 8-year-old Cameron Wacker and her classmates build a dam with toothpicks, sand and popsicle sticks, which turned out to be Cameron’s favorite science project, she said.
Because of Cameron’s love of science, she was selected to write a short essay for the Sigma Xi award applications, explaining why she liked her science teacher.
“Ms. Ross really helps me understand the importance of science,” Cameron wrote in her essay. “As we were learning about bees, we talked about everything bees need. They need the nectar from flowers, so they can make honey. That helped me a lot to understand science. Ms. Ross said it was science how the nectar from the flowers is turned into honey.”
It didn’t surprise Anne Reichel, a Lake Forest College professor, that Ross won a major teaching award so early in her career. As a college student, Ross stood out for her enthusiasm to learn, Reichel said.
“She led the class but not by being self-important,” Reichel said. “She was always the student who asked the questions in class that everyone else was thinking.”
Growing up in Oak Park, Ross always had an interest in science and thought she might become a doctor, she said. But she also loved teaching kids at summer camp, so she decided to meld the two.
As for the future, Ross may return to school to get a master’s degree. For the time being, she’ll remain an elementary science teacher aiming to inspire students, especially girls, she said.
“When I was growing up, all of the science teachers were male. I think I had one woman science teacher in middle school,” Ross said. “It’s a more male-dominated field, so I think it’s good that the kids see a woman science teacher.”