Paul Messman has been teaching science at Moravian Academy for 29 years. In addition to eighth-grade science, Mr. Messman also teaches Exploring Science and Engineering, an elective. Mr. Messman also serves on a handful of committees, including the Personal Learning Committee which created the S.C.O.R.E. program and the Development Designs pilot team in the Middle School.
Let’s get to know Mr. Messman…
Why did you choose education/teaching as your profession?
When I was in high school, I would often spend my study hall time helping other students with the courses, particularly science and math. My peers told me that I was good at explaining the concepts and valued my help. As time went on, more adults and fellow students were suggesting to me that I would be a good teacher. I started college with the idea of being a scientist and doing research but after receiving my degree, I took a different path. I had worked throughout my college years for a popular local restaurant and took a position with them, managing stores and helping to open new franchises. Several years of working in this industry, and working primarily with high school age employees, led me back to a desire to be a science teacher. I went back to school and am glad I made that choice.
Why middle school?
When I began teaching, I didn’t have a strong feeling about the choice between middle school and high school. After a few years in middle school, however, I really began to enjoy this level and the excitement and enthusiasm the middlers can show. They are at an age where they are able to understand concepts at a deeper level and it is very satisfying to see that happen. They are also still at an age where they can be very excited about things that older students would consider too simple, such as lighting a burner and melting something or mixing baking soda and vinegar. The combination of these qualities makes teaching at the middle level very rewarding.
What is your favorite moment/event at Moravian Academy during the school year?
I think that my favorite event at Moravian Academy is the annual Red and Gold Games Day. Having the entire student body together near the beginning of the year is wonderful as it allows me to see how past students have grown and experience the excitement and wonder that the younger children share. It is especially great to see the older students helping the younger ones to have a memorable experience. It is also great that all members of a family are on the same team. That’s why I can say “Go Gold!”
What do you most enjoy about teaching at Moravian Academy?
Teaching at Moravian Academy has been very enjoyable for many reasons. A big part of that is having small classes which make it so much easier to do activities and provide the attention that students need. I also enjoy the high level of motivation and respect that our students show and the way that they work together and support each other. The help and support that our parents provide are also crucial to teaching success. Teachers at Moravian Academy are not only given the chance to help make decisions about the curriculum and management of the school but are encouraged and expected to play a role in that process. It really helps to feel like you are part of a team working toward a common goal.
What do you hope to provide to students in your classes and what do you hope they take away?
I hope that students learn that science is an ongoing process that helps us understand the world around us and I hope that they will have a sense of how that process works. I try to focus on the idea that science doesn’t give us “proof” that our ideas are correct. We have to examine the evidence and make the best choices we can. The most exciting moments in science happen when new evidence supports our understanding, such as the recent images of a black hole, and also when new evidence shows us our ideas need to be revised. We can look back in time and wonder how people in the past could have believed that the Earth was motionless. What will people in the future wonder about us?
What is a classroom activity unique to you?
While it is not something I invented on my own, an enjoyable activity that I started at Moravian Academy is the water rocket project. I don’t have a record of when it was started but we began by launching a few rockets and rapidly moved to having each student construct and launch his or her own rocket. Not only are the rockets fun to make and launch, but they provide a great way to see Newton’s third law in action. I enjoy this activity so much that I have brought it to young people in church groups and summer camps. For several years now, water rockets have been an exciting activity at the summer program that Northeast Ministry offers the youth in the Marvine-Pembroke community in Bethlehem.
What’s something we don’t know about you?
My childhood, growing up in a small farming community in Nebraska, was probably very different from that of most people in this area. My father was a fishing enthusiast (and is still the best fisherman I have ever met) so most of our vacations were spent camping and fishing in various places on the plains and in the mountains of the west-central U.S. It might be difficult for many to believe that I didn’t see an ocean until I was 27 years old.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I really love being outdoors in my free time. When I am at home, I can often be found in my gardens doing the routine work of weeding, trimming, mulching, and feeding. I find that time very relaxing. I also enjoy hiking, biking, camping, and fishing, particularly when it involves traveling to the mountains. And while all mountainous areas are wonderful, my favorite adventures have happened in the mountains of the western U.S. Another free time activity I enjoy is reading, both fiction and nonfiction.