Central Campus Teacher Honored by Iowa Academy of Sciences

On Saturday, at the 125th annual meeting of the Iowa Academy of Sciences, Central Campus teacher Kacia Cain will be recognized as one of the top science educators in the state.

She will be one of six Iowa educators to be presented with the Excellence in Science Teaching Award. The Iowa Academy of Science has awarded the first Excellence in Science Teaching Awards since 1969. Outstanding teachers of all grade levels and areas of science have been recognized for their work and innovations in science education.

Mrs. Cain has taught at Des Moines Public Schools for more than 20 years. She has a BS from Iowa State University and an MS from Northwestern State University. She currently teaches the following courses at Central Campus: College Anatomy and Physiology; College Biotechnology; College Biological Research in Neurosciences; and Health Sciences Anatomy.

Other teachers being honored this year are Troy Schwemm of Southeast Polk High School, Lisa Chizek of North Tama Elementary School, Sue Meggers of Interstate 35 Middle School, Matthew Harding of Iowa City West High School, and Matthew Stier of Iowa City High.

To give you an idea of Mrs. Cain’s great work at Central Campus, and why she deserves this recognition, we have re-printed below a letter nominating her for this award submitted by Julie Rosin, assistant director of Central Campus:

It is with great pleasure and confidence that I highly recommend Kacia Cain for the Excellence in Science Teaching Awards Program sponsored by the Iowa Academy of Science. I have had the privilege of supervising Kacia during her time at Central Campus. She is recognized as an outstanding educator by students, peers, parents and administrators.

Kacia teaches college classes in Biotechnology and Anatomy and Physiology.  She develops interactive lessons that engage and inspire students. Engaging activities began the first day of school when students developed scientific vocabulary through activity based “Scrabble.” The Biotech students soon became part of a CSI Team to solve a crime using scientific evidence that was presented to classmates. Anatomy and Physiology lessons include the creation of a working heart, dissection of various animals, and visits to local health care and scientific business to understand application.   

This year, Kacia initiated a new Biological Research course for students interested in conducting research at the university level. Kacia nominates students to work directly with Dr. Muhammad Spocter at Des Moines University. The course is designed to familiarize students with comparative neuroanatomy and some of the research methods employed in mapping the human brain. I had the privilege of visiting this amazing class and was very impressed with the incredible opportunities that have been provided for high school students.  Each participant confirmed their career path in science- preferably research.

Kacia has established partnerships with many community businesses to enhance the experiences of students. She receives supplies from Kemin Industries and Pioneer to name just a few. The level of community support was evidenced late one Friday afternoon last fall when a scientist from Pioneer delivered a Hybrid Corn plant to her classroom for student experimentation and study. She also collaborates with colleagues at Central Campus to develop unique learning opportunities. Anatomy students have taught the Construction students about Lumbar health and injury prevention. The nurse aide students earn Health Anatomy credit through DMACC Bio 733, a prerequisite to the community college nursing program. Kacia participates in a professional learning community that meets monthly to share instructional strategies and document effect.

Kacia has also demonstrated initiative and cooperation by organizing meetings with Des Moines Area Community College, resulting in an increase in the amount and level of college credit students earn in her courses.  As a respected adjunct professor, she has developed a plan to teach the courses eligible for transfer to four year university, increasing credit from three to eight.  She partners with other educational institutions to insure that students effectively transition from secondary to postsecondary education. She arranged for students to spend a day at Iowa State University where they experienced classes and learned how to be successful in college. She has served as a leader in Des Moines Public Schools Science department and is a member of numerous college advisory committees. Kacia’s involvement in science goes beyond Iowa where she has been recognized by national and international associations for her expertise and outstanding programs in biotechnology.

Students have great respect for Mrs. Cain and the courses she teaches. Kacia demonstrates a high degree of dedication to her students as she works to build constructive student-teacher relationships and an engaging learning environment that engenders student success. Students are frequently found studying, working, or hanging out in the classroom during free time or after school hours. Work is expected to be at a college level and every support opportunity is in place to allow students to be successful. If a student is having difficulty, Kacia provides individual attention, partners them with a peer or creates after school learning opportunities for added instruction. When asked how biotech was going this year, Jordan said, “Ms. Cain rocks; we really DO things in her class; we don’t just study them.” Students create visual displays in hallways and participate in activities that are judged by community science partners.  The students’ ability to speak professionally about their work demonstrates their preparation and pride. Kacia has organized lessons that provide opportunities for students to work directly with professionals and students in fields related to their study. They work on classroom projects together, job-shadow and receive paid internships that foster their knowledge and interest in scientific fields. 

Kacia is recognized every day at Central Campus for her outstanding work and her dedication to her students and her profession. She was appointed to the state STEM Advisory Council and was recognized as the Outstanding Biology Teacher of the Year for the state of Iowa. I have full confidence that Mrs. Cain is an exemplary teacher and is highly deserving of the Excellence in Science Teaching Award.

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