GrowNextGen teacher leader

Tracy Merica

Science curriculum specialist at Madison Champaign ESC

Tracy knows a lot about: science curriculum, STEM, personalized learning

What about teaching excites you?
Engaging in the teaching of science is a constant source of enthusiasm for me as it allows me to nurture curiosity and critical thinking in students. Witnessing those enlightening moments when students grasp a concept is truly gratifying.

After 25 years of teaching middle school science, I now work at an educational service center. In this capacity, a significant aspect of my professional responsibilities involves providing professional development for educators. It brings me great satisfaction to deliver presentations to teachers, observing their excitement as they discover innovative approaches to captivate their students in the classroom. Another integral part of my job involves instructional coaching. I enjoy supporting teachers who are eager to implement hands-on and real-world learning experiences. Witnessing their growth as educators is truly fulfilling, and I take pride in knowing that the impact of my work extends beyond a single classroom, influencing a broader spectrum of students.

What was your “a-ha” moment when you realized the value of using agriculture as a vehicle to teach science?
Most of my career was spent working (and living) in a rural district. Seeking to expand my understanding of agriculture and integrate it into my 6th-grade classroom, I began attending Grow Next Gen workshops. Soil is a key topic in the 6th-grade curriculum, and by approaching this unit through an agricultural lens, my students gained a tangible real-world application, especially considering our school property included a market plot. Prior to incorporating agriculture into my lessons, teaching soil lacked engagement for the students. This approach allowed students to seamlessly connect classroom learning with hands-on, real-world experiences. We also collaborated with community partners to engage with the students.