Cathy Mowrer — Education

Dr. Cathy Mowrer sits at the head of the classroom in front of a large circular rug, talking to her small group of students about what historical events, people and objects were being celebrated throughout the world that week.

With the energetic voice of a first-grade teacher, she reads portions of a picture book — “A Drop Around the World,” by Barbara Shaw McKinney — to her class, whom she asked to sit around her on the rug so they could see the details of the book clearly.

Subtly the timbre of her voice changes as she folded the book down a bit, asking her students: “Does anyone see what might be an issue trying to point out every detail in every picture to your students?”

Amanda Post ’12 nods her head — she got it — “They’ll pay more attention to the pictures instead of the information you’re giving them.”

Dr. Mowrer, an Associate Professor in the Education Department, is teaching her science methods course to education majors. During every step of the process, she encourages her students to recall what it feels like to be a young child who is still fascinated with discovery. She has been awarded the Innovative Teaching Award at Marietta College, twice.

There is a fine line between teaching future teachers how to present information to children and extinguishing a child’s curiosity. “It’s about pedagogy and content; it’s about teaching students how to think critically and then trusting their abilities,” Dr. Mowrer says. “My students understand the manipulatives we learn in class and how to use them. But they also understand what’s a fun way to learn and what’s not so fun. I love teaching children. I love the light in their eyes. I love how they are so joyful. It’s our job as teachers to protect that joyful approach to learning.”

Shortly after the lesson on teaching with picture books, Ashleigh Tornes ’12 presented four science experiments that she would use to teach third graders the concepts of motion and force. Similarly to Dr. Mowrer, Tornes’ voice got slightly higher and more enthusiastic as she explained each step of the gravity experiment, which involved dropping raw eggs in sealed baggies attached to makeshift parachutes. Every step of the way, she complimented participating students and encouraged students to question every stage of the test. “It’s a lot of work but I enjoy it,” Tornes says.

Dr. Mowrer is pleased with how well Tornes handled four hands-on science experiments and how her student engaged the class.

“I believe there is a teacher within all of us. We all want to share our knowledge with others, whether you’re an auto mechanic or a business owner. I have the honor of teaching people how to share that knowledge.”