Julie Krusen might just as easily have ended up a zookeeper or animal trainer.
But while taking a detour from the industry after college to complete her student teaching, she discovered a newfound joy of instruction.
“I found that I could relate to the students and enjoyed watching them mature and appreciate science,” said the Biomedical Sciences teacher at Lexington-Richland 5’s Center for Advanced Technical Studies.
Krusen recently was named the district’s Teacher of the Year for 2013-14. She was formally recognized during a ceremony last week. The national board certified teacher was the first teacher of the year for the center, which opened last August.
But her career nearly took another path.
“After college (at the University of Tennessee), I worked as a zookeeper and trainer,” Krusen explained. “I started to work on my master’s degree to expand my opportunities in the zoo industry. I was encouraged to do my student teaching so that I would be a certified teacher. I was reluctant but decided to pursue it with all intentions of returning to zoo education.”
It was her interaction with her students that changed those plans.
“I loved challenging my students and giving them opportunities that I didn’t have,” Krusen said. “I thought about the classes that I enjoyed in high school and decided that I could create a challenging and exciting way to teach science.”
That challenge is one she says continues to motivate her.
“It is rewarding to see my students’ success, especially their success in science,” she said. “Whether it is when they come back to visit me to share how college is going or an email from an old student asking to be my student teacher, I’m always glad to hear students say they have enjoyed my class and how I have impacted their life.”
Bob Couch, director of the Center for Advanced Technical Studies, credited Krusen for giving her students practical skills.
“She has the unique ability to lead students to achieve at high levels by using project-based learning to develop critical thinking skills, and that enables students to conduct research to solve real-world problems,” Couch said.
Krusen, who has taught for 12 years, is credited for helping the Center for Advanced Technical Studies receive national accreditation from Project Lead the Way. The national nonprofit provides science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs and curriculum that allow students to apply what they are learning in those areas to real-life biomedical science projects.