If you think science can’t be fun, today, we’re excited and honored to introduce you to the Junior High’s Mrs. Tracy Powell, our fifth longest serving teacher thanks to her start in the district in 1991 first as a substitute, and then as a full-time Junior High Science teacher. As soon as you walk into her room, you’re surrounded by cabinets filled with beakers and glassware that simply makes you want to experiment and learn, as well as fun little toys and trinkets scattered around her countertops, like Newton’s Cradle or a bobble head of Bill Nye, the Science Guy. In fact, when we asked her fellow Science teachers to tell us a little bit about her, the word “fun” came up repeatedly. “Tracy Powell is such a fun teacher and teammate,” said her colleague Mrs. Brenda Kobie. “From exciting labs and experiments to silly catchphrases, she knows how to have a fun time in Science class. She loves making nerdy science jokes and greets you with a ‘Hey honey!’ any time you pop in for a chat or a question. She has been a fun department head to have and it has been fun to learn from her as I have grown into being my own version of a silly and goofy science teacher.” Mrs. Gretchen Hess also immediately mentioned her love of humor and making science fun. “Students love her corny Science jokes and sing alongs,” she said. “The highlight of the year is when she can get the principals to ride her hoverboard down the hall.” Mrs. Michelle Obst said those efforts to make science enjoyable always pay off as she sees her students succeed in class. “She loves to see the spark in their eyes when they connect science to their lives,” she said.
Although we wish we could have highlighted all of our teachers, we hope that you enjoyed our spotlight series of our five longest-serving teachers during this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Please enjoy this last one with Mrs. Powell:
Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?
A: I became a science teacher in hopes that I could inspire students to want to know more about the way the world works. Science is full of amazing things to discover.
Q: Did you ever do anything other than teaching?
A: If so, what? I have been teaching junior high science for 27+ years. Before that, I was a substitute teacher for 5 years.
Q: If you wouldn’t have been a teacher, what other career would you have pursued?
A: I once wanted to be wedding planner. I worked in a bridal salon during and after college.
Q: Can you please tell us where you’ve taught, what you’ve taught and for how long?
A: Many years ago I was a substitute in several local districts but Exeter JHS has been my home away from home for 27 years. At one point I taught both Life Science and Physical Science but for the past 10 years I have taught only 8th grade.
Q: What do you love most about teaching?
A: I love seeing students figure out the solution to their questions. I feel like you can actually see the light bulb go off above their head.
Q: What was your favorite grade or subject when you were a student?
A: I loved science and learning about how things work or why things happen.
Q: What’s a moment you’ll never forget from teaching?
A: I love a good pun. One day I was explaining to the class that their lab observations needed to have measurements and details. I told them to “Be specific.” The student seated in front of me, with a straight face and perfect comedic timing, said “Oh, like the ocean!” And then we all laughed at his pun. It was one of my most favorite silly moments.
Q: What’s a lesson you’ve learned from your students that you’ll never forget?
A: Eighth graders can be hilarious!
Q: What’s the best thing about teaching in Exeter?
A: Exeter is such a strong community. It fills me with pride when I think about how this community comes together when it faces challenges.
Q: Did you graduate from Exeter or have kids who went through Exeter?
A: I graduated from Exeter in 1986. My husband is also an Exeter grad (class of 1984). We were thrilled to be able to move back home to Exeter so that our two children, Taylor ’15 and Connor ’20, could also be Eagles! As an Exeter teacher, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to read my daughter’s name (and her classmates) at her graduation and to hand my son his diploma when he graduated during Covid.
Q: What have you learned about the profession since becoming a teacher?
A: I learned that a teacher’s work is never done. There’s always something on my to do list!
Q: What teaching accomplishment fills you with pride?
A: I am proud to say that our Science Olympiad team has a long history of success. The team has consistently shown a depth of knowledge and commitment to excellence that rivals the best in the state. I learned early in my career from some of the best science educators.
Q: What’s one skill that you hope all students learn from you?
A: I hope that my students will never stop learning. There is always something we can do to improve or know more.