Connie Bi: Discovering the Importance of Science Teaching

“Science for me is difficult,” says Brookvale Elementary School teacher Connie Bi, yet you would never know it when you take a look inside her classroom and see science notebooks, diagrams on the walls, and students eagerly sharing a hypothesis.  Connie teaches Kindergarten at Brookvale Elementary in Fremont, where she moved this year after many years at Anna Yates Elementary in Emeryville.  Connie’s classroom runs like clockwork: students know their routines, sit in their assigned spaces, take turns to talk, and sit attentively and ready to learn.

This year, Connie’s students have investigated magnets, the five senses, floating and sinking, bouncing, states of matter, evaporation, and more.  They have also learned coding using “coding mice” purchased by the school PTA.  These activities reflect Connie’s strong belief in the power of hands-on, minds-on learning.

“There is a misconception of scientists having a lab coat, but science is everywhere!” says Connie, explaining that she loves to show her students science in the everyday world beyond the classroom. She has led her students on field trips to the Exploratorium, Blue Sky Festival, and the Oakland Museum.    Connie also connects her Kindergarteners with her 6th grade buddy class, using the older students to mentor the younger students in science activities.

Connie’s inquiring mind led her to complete a triple major at UC Davis, studying Asian-American Studies, Socio-Cultural Anthropology, and Spanish. Even though she didn’t have time to take many formal science classes, Connie says she’s always been a scientific thinker, using evidence to help her decision making and carefully planning her activities.  To improve her science teaching, Connie has turned to CRS for science resources and has completed the Science Super Star Challenge for the last three years.  CRS is excited to see the strides Connie has made in her science teaching!

Connie’s motivation to teach science to her students is to “provide what I didn’t have in school.”  Connie moved to the United States from China when she was three years old. She grew up in San Bernardino in a low-income household, and realized that her teachers were trying the very best they could, but were unable to bring exciting learning experiences to the classroom.

Connie has built a Kindergarten classroom that gives every student the opportunity to be a leader.  She reminds her students that “You’re not done until the whole table is done,” and gives students opportunities to help their classmates complete tasks.  Connie believes that in teaching one of the most satisfying aspects is “knowing that you are setting an example for others,” and she wants her students to set that example for one another.

To continue her own learning, Connie is currently getting her Masters in Teaching Leadership at St. Mary’s, going to class in the evenings and weekends.  In her class, Connie is researching the effects of teaching social emotional learning through the use of I-Messages and sentence frames on the students’ abilities to solve their own social conflicts.  Connie wants to apply her leadership skills to become an even better teacher leader, advocating for best outcomes for students in the classroom.  One of Connie’s goals is to have her students learn as a collective group.  She notes “with high stakes testing, the social emotional learning is lost.”

Outside of school, Connie has many hobbies.  In her spare time, she loves travelling and learning new languages.  She speaks English, Spanish, and Cantonese, and little bit of Mandarin, Korean, and Indonesian, and she has taught in Indonesia and Korea too.  She also loves the outdoors and to stay fit, running the OC Marathon, San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon, and Spartan Races.  Next year, Connie will move up to teach 2nd grade.  We are excited to see how her passion for students and science develops with a new age group!