Teacher Resources

Demonstration Teacher Profiles

Connecting Classrooms and Communities through Watersheds: JD Stumpf, Lehman High School, Kyle, Texas

JD Stumpf teaches freshman and sophomore biology and environmental systems for seniors, at Lehman High School, in Kyle, Texas. He came to teaching by an indirect route. JD began his professional career at the Dallas Zoo, where he was a volunteer coordinator. He got called for jury duty and one of the other jurors, a teacher herself, suggested that he would make a good teacher. He continues, “That’s how I got interested. I had a series of strange steps from there but the result of it was I basically walked into one of the middle schools in town and the secretary looked at me and said you must be here for the science teacher job and I said yes, I am. I started teaching three days later. I went a year of eighth grade, four years of seventh grade and then three more of eighth. I have been teaching at the high school level for the last three years.”

What does he like most about teaching? “I would say number one, it’s interacting with the kids as a teacher but also as an adult, as a role model. I would say second to that would be designing the activities, the lesson plans but also all of the materials that support it. Lately with the environmental systems course it is reaching out into the community and making the contacts with the local people that work on the same issues that I’m trying to teach.”

He describes his approach to designing and preparing lessons and units as follows. “The first thing I think is what would I want to get out of this topic that we’re learning, what would I want to know as a learner. The next thing I think of is what activities could I use to accomplish that. And as I’m looking for ideas, suggestions, maybe what other teachers have done, I’m also keeping an eye on the state standards to make sure that we’re really focusing on the issue in a way that reflects the state standards.”

In terms of sources for preparing teaching materials for his environmental systems courses, he uses the Internet to get started. “That tells me some of the things that work and some that don’t. It just kind of gets my mind going. But I’m also looking for contacts in the community and trying to figure out what’s really important to them that citizens need to know because my kids are going to be citizens on their own very soon. So I want to make sure they’re ready to be good citizens. For example, I am involved in the Texas Stream Team Organization, which is the Texas State University organization that monitors stream quality all over Texas. I just recently got trained in the water monitoring procedures so now I can go out and I’ve chosen to be the representative to monitor Plum Creek right at the Steeple Chase Park location. I want to share those experiences with my students. I’m also in contact with the teacher at the other high school who also teaches environmental systems so we work together on some of these plans too.”

JD works on constantly improving what he does in the classroom.,“Even when the lesson goes really well, obviously there’s always going to be things that, as they’re going on, I think I’ve got to make a note and so I always keep post-its on my desk. I’ll just make my note and roll along with the lesson and then I’ll take those post-its and use them to make changes for the next time. To me there are few lessons that I’m one hundred percent satisfied with. If there’s any one that you feel just a little bit questionable then that’s the one that you’ve got to work on and so the next in-service day or the next workshop or the next time you’ve got fifteen minutes and you’re just surfing or whatever, seek that stuff out and talk to people and just see if there are ways you can polish things. The post-it notes, I mean I’ve got one in probably every folder I have on every topic that we teach. There’s just something I want to try next time and sometimes it is hard to keep up with those ideas. I tend to just write them down, put them in there, and then the next time I go to look at those plans I say, oh, yeah, right, I wanted to change that.”

JD closes with some advice to new teachers. “Ours is the only profession I can think of where you just have to be basically perfect from day one. That’s the expectation. But you’re not. Just don’t beat yourself up too much while you’re learning. Honestly, as a new teacher you are in the same boat as some of your kids. So if you think about that way you’re really all on the same side and nobody’s an expert at this so acknowledge your mistakes and be aware of them. Write a little post-it and stick it in the file. After a while you’ll remember all of those things and those little post-its won’t appear as much and you’ll really have a sense of the flow, the rhythm, how much time things take. But it is all going to take time. You just have to give it that time.”

JD is a member of Buzzfuel, a 1990s rock cover band out of Austin Texas. Buzzfuel can be found on MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube.