Come hungry for bottle.
An odd final few words before meeting Nation Ford High School science teacher Kathy Seastead. And the first few to suggest Seastead is no ordinary high school science teacher.
“She just goes above and beyond with everything she does,” said senior Nicole Morshead, who joined Seastead and about a dozen classmates Thursday for a lesson on edible water bottles.
Students aren’t the only ones to recognize it. Seastead recently learned she is the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award winner for South Carolina. The honor comes with a recognition in November at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference in St. Louis.
Least surprised with the recent award were the people spending the most time with Seastead in the classroom.
“It’s really obvious that she cares about what she does and she wants you to succeed,” said senior Kayla Bouchard, who took biology and AP environmental science with Seatead before a semester as teaching assistant.
“The minute you walk into her classroom, you know that she cares about you and she wants you to succeed.”
Seastead began teaching 22 years ago. She came from Denver, and has been at Nation Ford six years. She is the science department chair and teaches biology and advanced placement environmental science, which she started at the school.
“It is the largest and fastest growing AP science course,” Seastead said. “If you want to take a relevant course, this is one that makes you reflect every day on how you are using resources. This is a course about, ‘where are we going for the future?’”
The lesson on edible water bottles, demonstrated through a bead-like edible substance able to trap water, aims at hydrating areas of the world that lack potable water. One lesson had the class making biofuels from plants. Another had them lighting coal — “just a little bit,” Seastead insists — so students could see the mimicked process of scrubbers used to clean power plants.
Yet another focused on water testing.
“We basically pollute water with fertilizer,” Seastead said.
The idea is to keep students involved while also learning at a high level.
“A lot of kids say, ‘I don’t really realize I’m doing as much work,’” Seastead said.
Yet their results prove they are. Advanced placement classes, good for college credit after graduation, come with their own standardized tests. The national pass rate for environmental science is almost 50 percent. The Nation Ford class passes at 90 percent. All while taking the course just one rather than both semesters each year.
“As long as you give her your best, she’ll give you her best,” Bouchard said.
Seastead credits success to students and her inclination as a planner. Students talk about the study guides they turn in with each test in class, both preparing them for the final test.
“It helps to cushion your grade because her tests are really hard, but it really prepares you for the AP exam in the end,” Bouchard said. “The AP exam honestly feels like a modified version of one of her tests, just a tiny bit easier.”
Students say Seastead can have a maternal quality about her. She has high expectations, but shows concern for her students and passion for her subject. She hits the mark, they say, not only of preparing them for tests and college credit, but also sending them out with a better understanding of science than when they arrived.
“You really understand what’s going on in the environment,” Morshead said. “And she really helps you apply it to everyday life.”