AACT Member Spotlight: Autumn Rivera

By AACT on April 6, 2022

Autumn Rivera

Every month AACT spotlights a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month, we spotlight Autumn Rivera. She teaches General Science at Glenwood Springs Middle School in Glenwood Springs, CO.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a sixth-grade science teacher at Glenwood Springs Middle School in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and an adjunct professor at Colorado Mountain College in the Education Department. During my more than sixteen years as an educator, I have worked with students from elementary to postgraduate levels. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary Science from Colorado College. I also have a Master's in Educational Leadership from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. I am the middle school science lead for my school district, and I hold positions with the Colorado Science Education Network, Colorado Association of Science Teachers, and AACT.  I was named the 2022 Colorado Teacher of the Year and a National Finalist. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, traveling, reading, volunteering, and spending quality time with people I love!

What do you do to remain current and bring the latest science into the classroom?

I spend time at a state level supporting science education in Colorado. I am a board member of the Colorado Association of Science Teachers and also work on the Colorado Science Education Network Steering Committee. Through these professional organizations, I am able to connect with amazing educators from all over the state and beyond. I learn so much from what other teachers are doing in their classrooms and I am able to bring that knowledge back to my district and my own classroom. As the Colorado 2022 Teacher of the Year and a National Finalist, I am excited to expand those relationships and also share all the amazing things happening in Colorado.

What is your approach to building a meaningful relationship with your students and their parents?

It is important to get to know my students more than just the 60-minute class period they have with you each day. I spend time at the beginning of every year, and throughout the school year, getting to know my students' interests. Whether it is from a beginning of the year interest survey, or conversations before or after class, understanding what your students enjoy can make your instruction more meaningful. Also, there is great power in attending a soccer match or dance recital. When students, and their parents, see you show up at an out-of-school event, it leaves an impression. I try to attend as many as I can each year, or at least ask about the day after to let my students know I care. One more thing I try to do is to be silly with my students. Let them laugh at and with me. They see me as a human instead of the robot teacher at the front. In middle school, meaningful relationships are crucial, sometimes even more than academics, therefore I try every day to do something that is going to continue to strengthen my relationships with students.

Why did you become involved with AACT and what are the benefits of being involved?

I became involved when our current AACT President Greta Glugoski-Sharp encouraged me to volunteer for the AACT Nominations and Awards Committee. I was impressed with the passion of the teachers on the committee and fell in love with the Classroom Resource Library. I convinced my entire district 6th-grade team to join just so we all could use the amazing resources! As a middle school teacher, it can be hard to find vetted resources that are middle school-specific, and I am grateful that AACT provides just that. I don't have to waste time searching the internet for hours to look for the perfect activity, I just go to AACT and will find multiple activities and lessons I can use.

What are you most proud of in your work?

I am most proud of the relationships I build with my students. Relationships are so important in middle school and I am grateful every time a new relationship is built. I am also so honored when a student contacts me to let me know they have decided to pursue a career in science due to a passion that began in my science class. We as teachers sometimes forget how much of a lasting impact we can have on students and I am always very grateful when I am reminded of that work.

In three words, what would your students say they learned from you?

Passion for science.