February 21, 2020
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The Morgan School Teacher of the Year Emily Lisy is eager to share her enthusiasm for both the sciences and field hockey at her high school. Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News

The Morgan School Teacher of the Year Emily Lisy is eager to share her enthusiasm for both the sciences and field hockey at her high school. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)

Protecting the Environment through Education

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Emily Lisy always knew she’d have a career in the sciences, but it wasn’t until she was responsible for helping other scientists share their knowledge and passion that she realized she wanted to teach.

Several years ago, Emily was a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University helping to plan an environmental conference in Pennsylvania attended by many high-profile guests in the environmental science world.

“They said to protect the environment you have to educate people, especially younger people before they get to college and already know what they want to do,” Emily recalls.

Emily says that message stuck with her and led to her decision to become a high school science teacher.

“I always liked science. As a kid, I was always at the beach looking in tide pools and things like that,” says Emily.

Emily has been a science teacher at The Morgan School for seven years. At the school she teaches biology, anatomy, and physiology, and every other year a marine science class with UConn in which the students receive college credits.

Emily says that her favorite part of teaching is “getting the kids excited about science. It’s exciting when parents or people come up and say, ‘I heard about what you did in class today from so-and-so—they were talking about it.’” In particular, Emily says she likes the marine science class because the students work on semester long projects and then go to UConn for a science conference where other students from around the state also present their projects.

“It’s a really rewarding experience to see them at that level and it’s something they can take with them when they go to college,” Emily says.

Part of Emily’s strategy for teaching science to the kids is getting them to work with groups outside of the classroom. Emily says that she’s had students work with groups in Clinton like The Cedar Island Marina Research Laboratory and the Clinton Shellfish Commission.

Students have also worked with the Credabel Coral Lab in New London, and the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington has loaned equipment in the past so students can use actual lab equipment.

Working with groups outside of the school helps inspire the kids, Emily says—”They can see how it’s relevant and see what’s going on in real life.”

For her work, Emily was named the Teacher of the Year for the 2019-’20 school year by Clinton Public Schools. Emily was also a semifinalist for the Connecticut Teacher of the Year. Emily says she was excited and honored when she found out about the awards.

“I really enjoy the students,” she says. “They’re a great group of kids.”

Teaching wasn’t always the career path Emily thought she’d follow. In fact, during her time as an undergrad and graduate student at Penn State, Emily had participated in numerous ecological studies. She’d worked at nature centers, helped the EPA research the health of steams by studying birds as an indicator of the health of the water, and even worked with the Department of Defense.

Emily says the Department of Defense was interested in the migration patterns of certain large bird species, as planes could potentially crash after striking some of the larger birds.

“I may have stayed and kept doing research on birds or maybe teaching classes at nature centers and universities,” Emily says.

Instead, Emily began her teaching career in Stamford, and says the transition into teaching wasn’t necessarily a hard one.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids, so relating to them and getting them excited wasn’t so hard, but it was a lot of wok structuring my classes and figuring out how school systems work,” says Emily.

Emily says the commute back to her home at the time in North Branford from Stamford could sometimes take two hours, and that began to take a toll on her. When a job opened in Clinton, Emily applied for it.

“I always liked Clinton, and the shoreline in general,” Emily says.

In addition to teaching science, Emily is also the coach for the field hockey team, a position she’s had for two years. Emily says she played it growing up in Branford and on club teams in college. She also coached the sport during her time as teacher in Stamford.

“My two big passions are field hockey and science. I like getting the kids to love the game and have fun being on a team. It’s rewarding,” says Emily.

When not teaching or coaching, Emily says she likes to spend time with her family and doing outdoor activities.

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