AACT Member Spotlight: Erika Fatura

By AACT on June 6, 2024

Erika Fatura

Every month AACT spotlights a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month, we spotlight Erika Fatura. She is a science and chemistry teacher at Pentwater Public Schools in Pentwater, MI.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a science teacher for grades 8-12 in a very small K-12 district. We graduate on average about 20 students a year. I am the only member of our science department and teach eight different preps on a rotating basis. Those include chemistry, advanced chemistry, biology, physical science, earth science, forensic science, anatomy and physiology, and applications of STEM. Having so many preps is definitely a challenge, but the positives are endless. I am able to teach the same group of students for many years. As we know, building relationships with students is so important, and this allows for meaningful connections.

In addition, I coach varsity/middle school cross country and varsity track. In a small school, we wear a lot of hats. So, I am also the prom advisor, green schools club advisor, student of the month coordinator, NHS faculty council member, and serve on many other school committees. It is a lot of work, but at the end of the day, I would not have it any other way. The family feel of our school and the amount of personal attention our students receive makes it so worth it!

Why did you become a teacher? Did you always want to teach?

I never had the thought of becoming a teacher. I don’t have anyone in my family who is a teacher, so it was just never on my radar. My initial plan was to go into veterinary medicine. I went to MSU and studied pre-vet while working for many years at a couple different veterinary hospitals. I loved working with animals, but as it got closer to the time to apply for veterinary school, I started to have second thoughts.

Upon reflecting on my time as a veterinary technician, I realized that what I truly enjoyed was the aspect of teaching. I found immense satisfaction in answering questions and educating clients about test results and treatment options. This realization led me to change my path and apply to the College of Education instead. While I still have a passion for working with animals and continue to volunteer at our local animal shelter on a weekly basis, I have found that many of the concepts I teach can be directly applied to my experiences in the veterinary field.

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

As previously mentioned, the intimate size of our small school greatly facilitates the development of strong connections with students and their parents. One of the most influential factors in fostering these relationships is demonstrating genuine interest and concern for their pursuits and passions beyond the classroom. By actively participating in events, supervising dances, and supporting their extracurricular endeavors, we can greatly bolster our rapport with students. It is important to acknowledge that there is nothing more valuable than investing time in our students, and they truly appreciate seeing their teachers present at their special occasions and activities.

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

This is definitely important in science as with the advancement in technology, new discoveries are happening all the time. I like using News ELA for articles and Ted Ed for videos to show current schools of thought. Another program I really enjoy is called Skype a Scientist. It is a free program meant to connect scientists in the field with classrooms. My goal is to have each of my classes meet virtually with a scientist twice a year. I am always blown away by the research and careers these scientists have. It is a great way to show students new career opportunities and interests!

What fuels your passion for science and teaching?

I am deeply passionate about the art of teaching science as I believe it presents an unparalleled opportunity to captivate young minds. Regardless of their future career paths, all of my students must develop vital thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Science offers a myriad of chances to cultivate these abilities. This forms the cornerstone of my teaching philosophy and the focal point of my dedication. I firmly advocate for engaging, inquiry-based learning experiences that instill the necessity for creative problem-solving and foster effective communication and collaboration among students.