A Desert Springs teacher has been honored as the 2022 Teacher of the Year by the California Association of Science Educators.
Claudia Razo of Cabot Yerxa Elementary was named one of two upper elementary teachers in the state to receive an award for her work as a fourth grade teacher.
This year, she is a dedicated science teacher, working with kids transitioning from Kindergarten through fifth grade.
Palm Springs United has added a priority of 15 STEAM teachers in its annual budget, so students in every elementary school can receive weekly lessons in science, technology, education, arts and math.
Razo teaches problem solving through a software development program called SAM Labs, and also leads hands-on activities like building and engineering.
It’s ironic that Razo never saw himself as a science teacher. He wanted to become an animator, and later realized that his teaching career still allows for some creative outlets.
“Teaching is definitely a balance between duty and fun,” he said in accepting his decision.
He says that the most enjoyable moments that happen as an educator are usually when the kids are so happy that they are not even learning about themselves.
Razo has been teaching for more than 10 years. He has been in Cabot Yerxa since 2014.
But she is modest about her skills.
When asked what advice he would give to other teachers looking for a game in science education, Razo said there are probably hundreds of teachers out there who are “way beyond” what they are doing in school.
But she and other STEAM teachers do a lot.
One of the most popular experiments involves earthquake simulators.
Upper elementary students build model buildings in ways that try to withstand the force of a simulated earthquake by moving forces that students use computer programs to move back and forth.
“It’s almost all in one,” said Razo, referring to the various engineering techniques on display.
The earthquake experiment is the culmination of lessons about weights, isolators and mass dampers. Listening to Razo describe the techniques, it’s easy to forget that he’s talking about the fourth level of science strategy.
Now, her students are learning about dark, clear, and transparent lights, and Razo has developed unique lesson plans for each grade level. Second graders are learning about lights and shadows, but fifth graders are mixing different substances to see how they behave.
It doesn’t matter what the lesson is, Razo says, critical science teaching is about building kids’ resilience.
“There are no mistakes if you learn from your mistakes,” Razo said. “Science isn’t just about doing it the first time… and that’s scary.”
Jonathan Horwitz covers education for Desert Sun. Reach out to him at [email protected] or @WritesJonathan.