Tracy Webb

Tracy grew up in parts of northern and southern Ontario, the longest stay at Timmins, then moved to Nova Scotia as a teen. With an early interest in rocks and the outdoors in general, taking a gr. 12 Geology course changed her focus from being a vet to studying fossils. She graduated from Acadia U. with B.Sc Geology and B.Ed., and has a diverse background, having taught over the past 20+ years senior Biology, Chemistry, Geology and Science 10. She contributes to many organizations: Atlantic Geoscience Society and EdGEO; National Education for Sustainable Development Expert Council (part of Learning for a Sustainable Future - LSF); SENSE – Sustainable Education in Nova Scotia for Everyone; Safe Drinking Water Foundation of Canada - Board of Directors and Education Chair; EECOM; National Committee of Teacher Advisors for Green Street; teacher advisor for the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club; Kieran Pathways Society (alternative transport) and the NS Provincial Science Lead Team.

In school, she brings aspects of geology into other science courses in promoting earth science, and takes her gr. 12 Geology students on two full day field trips each year. Often staff and non-geology students bring in samples they've found while rockhounding, and many people are interested in looking at all of the displays of crystals, fossils and rocks. She also works with the Environment Club, Science Buddies, and the EcoBuddies program sponsored by the Sierra Club. Another group, called Invisible Children, has promoted the plight of children soldiers in Uganda, and is actively fundraising to help support them. She coaches the D1 Girls volleyball team and works with the music program. Other interests include rockhounding at every opportunity, playing piano and trumpet, mountain-biking, road cycling, running, cross-country skiing, camping, gardening, sewing and reading.

Her efforts and dedication have been recognized by various organizations: EECOM Excellence in Environmental Education K-12 Outstanding Teacher Award 2005; NS Provincial Association of Science Teachers “Excellence in Science Teaching”; NSTU Provincial Education Week Exceptional Contributions, a National Institute Excellence Award, and a Shell Canada Summer Fellowship at Queen's University for geology teachers.

Q: What is the title of your job and what do you do?

A: High School Science Teacher; teach sciences and Gr. 12 Geology

Q: Who do you work for, and where are you based?

A: I work for the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, and I am based at Horton High School, Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Q: What is your typical routine?

A: The usual day starts at 8:30 before classes begin, until 3:30. If I don't have volleyball practice after school, I often leave at around 5 or so, as I like to get everything ready for the next day, or set up labs/put things away.

Q: Where do you work?

A: My classroom is a combination of a lab section, with three long lab benches and 8 computers, along with a spacious area with 30 desks. I am particularly fortunate, as my school is relatively new and my room has 3 large picture windows that allow expansive views over the scenic Annapolis Valley.

Q: What equipment/machinery do you use?

A: In the class, we use up-to-date probe ware and have access to many computer applications; I have a solid rock tumbler and polisher for interested students. Other than that, just the typical equipment one finds in a well-stocked and supplied high school.

Q: What education or training is required for your job?

A: I did an undergraduate degree in Geology at Acadia University, with specialization in Palaeontology; almost completed a second major in Biology, and a minor in English and French. I then did a Bachelor of Education degree, and was the only earth science student the Education Department had for many years.

Q: What kind of personal traits do you recommend for this profession?

A: As a teacher, you would enjoy being with lots of people, and share a passion for what you do with them. To be an effective teacher (of anything) you have to have patience and genuinely care about the students you work with, and adapt to their learning styles by the way you teach. Above all, you should be an active life-long learner yourself, and always maintain the curiosity and wonder about the world, to better inspire your students to do the same.

Q: What is the salary range of your job?

A: The starting salary of teachers depends on where you are teaching, but generally it is the $35 000 range, with increments every year until you've taught for 11 years. You can upgrade your license on three levels, with salaries that can top $80 000 or more.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: I love working with my students and helping them to become more informed about the world and themselves as learners – especially when they start to really question why and how. It is particularly satisfying when you see people get caught in obstacles (figuratively!), and help them to figure out their own solutions – it is so empowering to have students say "This is so easy now!"...

Q: What are the advantages?

A: The advantages are numerous – you can have a profound impact on a student – perhaps positively changing their outlook about themselves, their goal(s), their career choices and so on. You are in an environment that constantly promotes learning, for both you as a teacher and your students, and as a teacher you can always learn a lot from your classes! You have opportunities to network with other professionals, whether they are other teachers or professionals in the field; you can attend conferences and professional development inservices, or present at one yourself. For raising a family, being a teacher also provides a stable career, and the benefit of having the same vacation time as your own children. Believe me though, the summer time is well earned, as most teachers spend countless hours during the school year with marking, preparing and planning!

Q: What are the advancement opportunities for this career?

A: Teachers don't have the typical advancement structure as some other professions. You can certainly advance your teaching license by taking graduate courses, certificates or diplomas that meet the requirements of the provincial Department of Education. You may choose to go into Administration, or become a consultant in the school board or Department of Education. Having said that, there are many opportunities for teachers to take their considerable management and interpersonal skills outside of teaching. You could work for organizations in an educational role, such as museums, businesses and non-governmental organizations (UNICEF, David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club, Shell, Environment Canada, etc.)

Q: How physically demanding is your job?

A: It isn't. You do tend to stand on your feet for most of the day, and may need to learn how to effectively channel your air to project your voice (not yelling...projecting! There is a difference!). That's about it...

Q: Why did you choose this career?

A: I chose teaching because I've always enjoyed helping people learn things – and after being the senior lab assistant at university, teaching and marking the intro Paleo labs, I felt that being a geology teacher would be perfect. I originally wanted to be a vet for most of my early life, but I also had a life-long fascination with rocks. (Somewhere between Timmins, Ontario and Calgary is a box of rocks I collected as a 6-year-old traveling across Canada, and my dad decided that the tent-trailer had too much weight…so you know what happened.) I took Geology in my grade 12 year at Prince Andrew High in Dartmouth, and that totally hooked me, and then studying palaeontology combined my interests in both animals and rocks. I have been teaching for 25 years now, and can't imagine retiring, as I love my career and working with students.

Q: What is your most memorable moment/event/place related to your experience as an Earth scientist?

A: For places, it is hard to beat having the experience of standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon – it truly takes your breath away, and to think that you are looking at billions of years of Earth's history in the layers below your feet is profoundly amazing. I also love the treasures around my own area – and have taken my geology classes to Parrsboro (home of the world's smallest dinosaur footprints), Cape Split (which has its own magic of towering cliffs and the tumbling whirlpools and winds as the tides change) and Blue Beach near Hantsport – a unique slab of geologic time captured in the fossils along the shoreline, aptly displayed in the Blue Beach Museum set up by Chris Mansky and Sonja Wood.

When I worked for the NS Museum as a summer student, I had a fantastic multi-job. I enjoyed sitting out in the parking lot breaking up rocks for collector kits, and having children and tourists wander over to see what I was doing – and explaining the different types of rocks to them with a few freebies thrown in for good measure (but don't tell anyone!). We made a film of Arisaig and its trilobites with the National Film Board, explored remote areas to look for fossils, and helped to put together a whale skeleton with the museum's biology crew. I worked through archived specimens, trying to identify them, cleaned mineral specimens and went on many field trips around the province to collect more.

As a teacher taking classes out on field trips, there are several I'll always remember. For one, we had stayed at Ross Creek for our lunch and made a small bonfire with the driftwood. It was a perfect day, so we sat around chatting and looking for agates and amethyst a bit longer than planned. By the time we got to Medford Beach, I cautioned my students that we only had about 20 minutes to get to the sea arch and back before the tide came up to the cove area. We set off at a good pace, saw the sea arch and explored a bit, then headed back. While we were in no danger of being isolated or trapped by the rapidly incoming tide, it had indeed reached the edge of the sandstone cove, we had to take off our shoes and wade in about 15 cm of water. Everyone was so excited about being "caught" by the tide, and having to walk in water for a couple of meters, that they felt they were on a major adventure. At least they proved that geologists don't dissolve in water, as earlier in the week we thought it might rain and they felt the trip should be canceled if it did rain. And then there was the overnight trip to Parrsboro and sleeping with the dinosaurs...

Q: What is your advice to newcomers?

A: Teaching at any level (elementary to university) is a very satisfying and rewarding profession. There are so many opportunities to continually stretch your own mind and learn about people in the process of sharing your own enthusiasm about what you are teaching. While I had really positive experiences in various summer jobs as a geologist, particularly with the museum, I have never regretted the decision to be a teacher. There are days when a student can be a challenge to work with, but as with anything else in life, if you persevere and act from the heart, good results usually follow eventually. It is a treat when former students drop by and tell you how you affected their lives, or even altered their choices about their path in life. My advice to any newcomers to this profession would be to always keep your mind open, know that there is a fantastic support system in place and find the gift that every student has within them…and welcome to a great career!

Q: Any other comments to share?

A: There is a tremendous need for Earth scientists across an incredible assortment of job opportunities – from hydrogeologists to meteorologists, teachers to museum curators, exploration to gemologists. I know that any student beginning an Earth science program will be amazed at the choices available, and at the variety of jobs that require Earth scientists. The flexibility of career choices allows one to experience several types of jobs as well – one could work out in the field, then do research or exploration, then perhaps teach!

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