PA Distance science teacher, Ms. Samantha Sellinger, graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. After switching from a major in archeology, Ms. Sellinger decided that she was more interested in science, specifically biology. What she wanted to pursue with that interest, however, was yet to be determined.
Ms. Sellinger volunteered for Rotary International during her time in college, where she interacted with kids from all around the world. During her experience, she realized that she enjoyed working with kids, especially teenagers. Combining her two interests, she decided to pursue teaching certification in biology and general science for grades 7-12. Now, as a PA Distance high school science teacher since the fall of 2018, Ms. Sellinger offers three courses: biology, physical science, and forensics.
“I had some misconceptions about cyber school early on in my career,” she explained. “But now, I realize that none of it is true. I do the same type of teaching and interact with the same types of kids as I would anywhere else.”
Ms. Sellinger also explains that she appreciates the sense of camaraderie among the PA Distance teachers and staff, saying, “We are all encouraged to work together and collaborate with other teachers to create unique lessons for our students.”
She teaches a variety of subjects within the world of science, from lessons about genetics and how cells work in her biology classes to how molecules bond to form substances and the study of matter in her physical science classes.
Her forensic science elective, however, is her most popular class.
“I have two sections of students in each one,” she explained. “I teach them about evidence analysis, and what blood and DNA can tell us in a crime scene.”
“I love teaching my forensic science class,” she said. “I like to do more project-based lessons, and we do some in that class.” She explained that in her forensic classes, her students work on the crime scene “sketches,” where they use online programs to draw rooms, where an imaginary crime was committed.
“Of course, when it comes to a make-believe crime, they all want to depict something dramatic,” she said, with a laugh.
Her students map out the different aspects of a crime scene, where you might find DNA evidence, and what you can deduce from varying scenarios. “The student sketches come out awesome. Some of them get very detailed,” she said. “It’s a great use of technology that works well with my lessons.”
Ms. Sellinger also encourages hands-on learning in her biology and physical science classes with labs each semester. “I send lab materials home to each student in the fall and the spring,” she explained. “That way, they have the materials for them to follow along with me in a live lesson.”
The specific labs can change, depending on the year and level of interest. For her biology class this year, Ms. Sellinger sent home a pH Lab Kit. In the lab, students examine the effects of acids and bases on several chemical pH indicators and determine the pH of several common household materials.
“Labs are a cool experience for students to do at home with their family,” she said.
Ms. Sellinger noted that PA Distance is unique for its combination of asynchronous and live lessons. “If my students need extra support, I’m here to help personalize assignments and work with each of them to figure out what they need to be successful,” she explained.
“They see me, in person, for classes,” she explained. “It gives them a chance to interact with me on a personal level, too. I have no reservations about talking about my life with the kids.”
She also explains that students interact nicely with each other, too. “Our students know that they are in it together, alongside their peers,” she explained.
“They know that they are always welcome and supported by myself and their classmates,” she added.