Video: This high-school science teacher instills 'wonder' in her students

Growing up on a farm in an Ohio town with a population of 358, Jill Tobin didn't know that the life lessons she was getting would lead to a career as an educator.

"Being raised on a farm instilled more in me than just a sense of wonderment; it also instilled a strong work ethic," recalled Tobin, who teaches Earth science, biology and honors biology to all grades at John Burroughs High School in Burbank.

"I've actually been working since I was in the third grade," she continued. "That's about the time my dad determined that I was strong enough to wield a shovel, push a broom and carry a bucket of rocks across a field."

Gender, size and strength didn't matter when it came to working on the farm, Tobin said.

"'You have two choices,' my grandfather used to tell my father, and my father used to say to me," she recalled. "'You can either pick up rocks in the field and get paid, or get spanked and go pick up rocks in the field.'"

Twenty years later, Tobin finds herself repeating similar words to her students: "You can either do your work and get credit, or get a phone call home and then go do your work."

"Gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation -- none of these things matter when it comes to completing work in my class," she said. "Everyone is capable of doing the work in one way or another, and everyone is expected to do so."

It is this belief -- all students are capable of working and achieving success -- that drives everything Tobin does for her students.

"From lesson planning to delivering instruction, I strive to engage and empower every student in every assignment and activity we do," she said. "That's how I was raised. And this, I believe, is what inspires my students to work hard."

She believes teaching isn't about the giving of information but rather the opening of minds.

"It's something you do because it's your calling, because you can't imagine doing anything else," Tobin said. "In my opinion, teaching is the most important job in our society. We quite literally couldn't function as a species without a proper education, without a way to communicate or collaborate with one another ¬-- two skills that must be taught and honed."

One of the best parts of her job is watching her students wonder.

"Every day I get to experience the remarkable feeling of watching the light bulbs turn on in my students' heads as they learn something new, as they make the connections that enable them to become critical thinkers and problem solvers," Tobin said.

Her ultimate goal is to inspire students to live their best lives.

"Science is simply the medium I use to teach students way more than just science," she said. "I hope that I am teaching them about life."

--Alicia Doyle, Brand Publishing Writer

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