Middle school science teacher Kelly Bornmann makes a lava lamp with a pre-kindergarten student as they explore kitchen chemistry. She often works closely with the lower school science department, helping them out when needed. (Photo courtesy of Bornmann)

Teacher leaves classroom environment after 30 years

Middle school science teacher Kelly Bornmann is leaving Country Day — transitioning from teaching students to teaching teachers.

Bornmann joined Country Day in 2018 and teaches sixth grade science, is a sixth grade advisor, runs a study hall elective and helps out the lower school science program when needed.

For the first time in 30 years, Bornmann won’t be teaching in a classroom.

She will be working for the Education Records Bureau, a national not-for-profit with a goal to help independent and private schools use data from standardized tests to develop teacher instruction and curriculum. 

“It’ll give us a snapshot of what a student is as a learner and help parents understand that,” Bornmann said. 

She will work from home in Sacramento, occasionally visiting schools like Country Day for professional development and to give teacher workshops.

It was a hard decision to make, Bornmann said.

“It’s an opportunity for me to grow professionally and utilize skills that I had used earlier in my career,” she said. 

She will analyze data, work with adult learners and train teachers.

“This gives me a chance to serve education on the national level,” Bornmann said. 

Seventh grader Kerem Guvelioglu is grateful for having Bornmann as a teacher because she taught him effective note-taking strategies which he still uses today. 

“She gave detailed descriptions of the material we were learning which helped me better understand topics,” he said.

Before coming to Country Day, she taught science to elementary students at a K-12 school in New York City. After moving to Sacramento in 2018 for family reasons, she decided to resume teaching in a middle school setting like she had done earlier in her career.

Her favorite part about teaching is when students use the knowledge they’ve been taught and apply it during projects, Bornmann said. 

For example, every year students build a paper roller coaster using the physics concepts they’ve learned.

Guiding sixth graders through their end-of-the-year passion projects is another fond Country Day memory for Bornmann.

“I get to coach each student through the scientific process and get them to become experts in their topic,” Bornmann said.

Seventh grader Ryan Azghadi was a student of Bornmann’s last year who created a passion project.

His project focused on the chemical reactions present while cooking a steak.

Azghadi appreciated how Bornmann helped him through the research process and found reliable sources for him  to use.

“She helped me out a lot, and I couldn’t have done it without her,” Azghadi said. 

However, Bornmann’s biggest highlight and what she’ll miss most is the Scientists in the Field project — a collaboration between Bornmann, high school drama teacher Jane McGinnes and librarian Joanne Melinson. 

The six-week-long project is based on a book series of the same name that has several books on a variety of science topics. Students pick a book from the series to study that features actual scientists doing field work.

Students do academic research with Melinson and create virtual field trips to take their classmates on to teach them more about their topic. 

“Scientists in the Field is the absolute best because it allows us to do something interdisciplinary and students get to feel what it’s like to be a scientist,” Bornmann said. 

Her work in the project was praised by Head of Middle School Rommel Loria.

“Her work with colleagues on the project bettered the sixth grade experience for everyone,” he said.

What Bornmann won’t miss is teaching in a COVID-19 environment.

The pandemic has prevented sixth grade from doing science labs, which is really tough because the program is so hands-on driven, Bornmann said. 

She also won’t miss teaching in 100 degree weather.

Loria and the science department are in the process of hiring someone to replace Bornmann.

Bornmann’s enthusiasm for science is almost irreplaceable, Loria said. 

“For teachers and students to have that kind of resource and passion on campus is something that we’ll all miss,” Loria said.

— By Rod Azghadi

Originally published in the May 25 edition of the Octagon.

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