Rachel Lytle, who teaches honors and AP Biology at Brentwood High School, was recently asked, “Do you plan to stay in the classroom forever?”
Her colleague had not asked an unusual question, but it caused Lytle, who started her fourth year of teaching this fall, to stop and think.
“I now realize not only do I want to stay in the classroom, I want to stay in the classroom because of the constant change it provides,” Lytle said, adding that “change drives me as a teacher, as a learner, and as a person, and I look forward to it each and every new school year.”
That dedication to her students and her own development as a professional is why the National Association of Biology Teachers recently named Lytle the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding New Biology Teacher Achievement Award. The award, sponsored by Pearson, the Neil A. Campbell Educational Trust and NABT, recognizes outstanding biology and life science teaching in grades 7-12 by a “new” biology/life science instructor.
As a classroom teacher, Lytle is known to bring in timely resources to help make content interesting and relevant. She uses TED Talks and news articles, frequently collaborates with colleagues, and pays special attention to the design of her lab experiences. As her students focus on a single unknown variable for weeks, they become more methodical, honing their skills as technicians and researchers. Lytle has also coordinated a partnership with Middle Tennessee State University so her students can see firsthand how their experiences can be applied to a university setting.
Lytle recognizes that improving student attitudes toward science is a community effort. She currently leads her school’s professional learning community and is part of a district-based “science think tank” whose mission is to increase enrollment in science classes. She shares her experiences and learns from others by being involved with local teachers and at national organizations like NABT.
“Ms. Lytle’s energy and passion, has reignited my 18-year career in science education,” Doug Anderson, a fellow teacher at Brentwood High School, said in his recommendation letter. “I have never met a more involved and professional educator.”
Lytle is excited to continue in her work.
“More students, more lessons, more learning, more labs, more research, more professional development, and most of all, more change,” she said. “As I descend to the next generation of my career, I take a step closer to that teacher I dream to be, and I hope I inspire my students in taking that step closer to the scientist they dream to be.”
Lytle earned a B.S in Biology and her Tennessee state teaching license from Middle Tennessee State University. She stayed at MTSU to earn her M.S. in Biology with a research interest in science education. Her academic achievements at MTSU were recognized with a number of awards and scholarships, including NABT’s Graduate Student Travel Award in 2014.