Sloan named Teacher of the Year

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Kodi Hicks

Canyon High staff members voted physics teacher Tara Sloan as campus Teacher of the Year, which was announced Monday, Jan. 18. Sloan said teaching is her calling. “I don’t know what made me want to go into teaching,” Sloan said. “I’ve just always remembered wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. When I got here, it fit me. It helps me help others.”

Journals filled with meticulously written procedures act as time capsules in-the-making. Paper furniture from students of years past sit aboard the cabinets. Abiding to a well-organized syllabus, students listen, conduct labs and learn about the world of motion inside room 1202. Fifteen years into educating, helping and impacting students at Canyon High, physics teacher Tara Sloan was announced Teacher of the Year Monday, Jan. 18.

I try to make it a point to make sure I’m demonstrating how to think through those processes.”

— Tara Sloan, physics teacher

Other finalists for the award include girls athletics coach and math teacher Kaitlyn Bauer, business teacher Marcie Cook, math teacher Katie Gilliland and English teacher Taylor Sparks. With a degree in biology and composite science, Sloan originally taught seventh-12th grade science in Groom, TX as the only science teacher. When she moved to Randall High, Sloan only taught physics, as opposed to the variety of sciences she taught prior.

“I taught strictly physics at Randall because that was the position that was open, Sloan said. “I really fell in love with it at that point, and now I would never go back to anything else.”

Sloan described physics as a step-by-step process, which has helped develop her demonstrative teaching style.

“I remember being in high school and getting frustrated in math and science when we were asked to solve problems, but we hadn’t been shown how to do those problems,” Sloan said. “I try to make it a point to make sure I’m demonstrating how to think through those processes.”

Sloan said she has become more confident in the classroom over the years.

“It’s more streamlined into what I know students need to know to be successful in college,” Sloan said. “I believe that over the years, through my own life experiences and those of my students, I’ve learned to be more gracious and understanding of student issues–time, work, family lives, personal issues–and yet still maintain high expectations in the classroom.”

Sloan described the labs her students participate in as hands-on extensions of the examples shown in class.

“The best learning takes place when students are thinking, creating, experimenting, learning from mistakes and trying again,” Sloan said. “Labs are necessary in order for students to be able to apply their knowledge. It’s an opportunity for students to use their critical thinking skills and knowledge in a different way.”

Sloan said she strives to make examples used in class interactive by continually questioning the students and asking them to explain the problem’s steps.

“My ultimate goal is to hopefully lead students to love physics and love the challenges it presents,” Sloan said. “I want students to learn to think critically, think for themselves, become confident in their abilities and learn something new every day.”

Physics teacher Tara Sloan stands alongside principal Jennifer Boren after winning campus 2020 Teacher of the Year. (Jasinia Frausto)

Junior Zoe Kizziar, an AP Physics II student, said Sloan sets her students up to be successful in life.

“I really like having Mrs. Sloan as a teacher,” Kizziar said. “I like the way she teaches. She’ll give you the information you need to know, but if you don’t do your work on your own, you’re not going to learn anything. She doesn’t coddle you. In most classes, you learn by writing stuff down on a piece of paper. In her class, you either take notes, or you solve problems on the board together, or you do labs which help you connect those things to the real world.”

Kizziar said Sloan’s class is incredibly interactive, partially because of the number of labs completed.

“That’s the most labs I’ve done ever–I have a whole journal filled with different labs that we do,” Kizziar said. “We had this lab that’s called the ‘Sizzle and Slice.’ It’s incredibly hard. We had to place two strings on the edge of a table and tie a weight to them. Then we would light one of the strings on fire so it would release the weight, a razor would cut the remaining string, and the weight had to land on a target on the floor.  It’s incredibly nerve-wracking, but it was really fun.”

Although he did not major in physics, 2013 graduate Collin Backus said Sloan’s influence sparked a long-lasting fascination for physics.

“Whenever we had our pandemic lockdown, I started reading a book about the physics of the universe,” Backus said. “I think all of that interest in physics and my continued interest in physics really started with her. She really made physics interesting.”