Science fuel: Kozlowski helps students take flight into future


Whitewater High teacher Shelley Kozlowski builds relationships with students, using science as fuel.

Kozlowski currently teaches several levels of chemistry classes, and serves as the school’s STEM program coordinator and science fair coordinator, among many other responsibilities.

“You can just call me the science guru at this school,” she joked.

She grew up in the county, graduating from Sandy Creek High, and later returning to raise her own family here.

“This community means something to me. It feels like home.”

Becoming a teacher was never in her plans growing up. Coming out of college she was a research specialist at Emory University studying medications to inhibit drug addiction.

“I was ready to take on the science research world,” she said.

After about 6 years, she wasn’t feeling fulfilled. She still loved the science, but she felt like she was going through the motions.

“I needed something that made me feel passionate about science again.”

Some of her friends that were teachers suggested she consider it. She remembered back to Sandy Creek where a love of science was fostered by her teachers. They are the driving forces she tries to emulate in her own classroom. Her teachers did more than just teach the material, they inspired.

“They had a way of exciting their students about science,” she said. “They were building relationships. They made me feel like I was special.”

Kozlowski found her focus also needed to be on students.

“I need to be in it for the kids, and I’ll just use science as the fuel,” she said. “That’s my vessel.”

Flipping that switch showed that her first love in the classroom is building relationships with her students.

It’s such victory when she sees a lesson really connect for a student.

“That’s everything. It makes me so excited to be able to teach that and then fill them up with the kind of love that I had, too.”

A key side project, the STEAM bus, starts a chain reaction of inspiration. High school STEM program students go to events and facilitate projects for elementary school students. They offer a dozen activities of a wide variety, including a green screen, robots, rocket building, and VR headsets.

“It’s a lot of work but the work is so worthwhile. When you have high school kids coming to you and saying I feel empowered and you have the little kids coming to you and saying that was fun, I want to be part of the STEM program or I can’t wait to go to high school so I can learn more about this, that is so just fulfilling,” she said. “It goes beyond just teaching a classroom, it makes me feel like I make a difference. It makes me feel good.”

It all comes down to helping students realize their potential through encouragement and love. It goes beyond the classroom to watching her students in athletic competitions and plays and writing stacks of letters of recommendation.

“Hopefully they see that I care, truly I do care,” she said. “My why is them. It’s making them feel and making them know that they make a difference.”


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