Sky's the limit for young alum bio teacher, NABT award recipient

In just three short years of teaching, Enya Granados, ’18, has already made her mark in her classroom, and people have taken notice.

Enya recently learned that she is this year’s recipient of the 2021 Outstanding New Biology Teacher Achievement Award from the National Association of Teachers of Biology.

“I was shocked and surprised and honored when I learned that I had gotten the award,” says Enya, who teaches biology at the Alabama Connections Academy in Athens, Alabama. “It made me feel really good and giddy, and was some much-needed positivity after such a hard year professionally with the pandemic.”

She attributes her early career success to two factors: Building relationships with her students and her teaching and faculty mentors who helped set her up for success.

All about building relationships

"I like to keep students engaged first and foremost by developing relationships with them and showing them that I care. I love building relationships with people and that's the entire reason why I got into teaching," she says.

The more opportunities students have to engage in authentic scientific practices, the better. Enya keeps that engagement alive in her classroom by using relevant, real-world topics that are interesting and allowing her students to drive the inquiry into each unit. “I use their questions to plan everything. That’s really important because I think that all students deserve a chance to feel like they have science skills and can choose to pursue a career in science if they want to.”

This collaborative approach to teaching is just one of the reasons Enya received the teaching award, according to NATB. 

Although Enya has been teaching for three years, since her ‘Berg graduation, her teaching career started soon after she arrived on campus. She served as a teaching assistant for three years and during her sophomore year, she completed an internship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Summer Education Research Program. During her junior year, she completed a second internship at the University of Georgia’s Undergraduate Biology Education Research Program.

She landed her first teaching position at Russell County High School in Seale, Alabama, where she taught pre-AP biology, biology and environmental science. She then moved to her current school, Alabama Connections Academy, where she teaches biology and is co-sponsor for the Gay Straight Alliance at the school. As she works toward her master’s degree at Auburn University, Enya is also a Knowles Teaching Fellow, a connection she made through her internships. This prestigious opportunity has helped her develop and sharpen her educational researcher skills.

‘Amazing teaching mentors’

At Heidelberg, Enya found a mentor – Biology Professor Dr. Justin Pruneski – who helped her embrace her love for biology and education and combine the two as she personalized her studies at Heidelberg. “Dr. Pruneski helped me expand my horizons by encouraging me to do education research and collaborated with me to develop curriculum and present it publicly at national organizations by NABT,” she says.

Additionally, her cooperating teachers – ’Berg alum Chris Monsour, ’99, a science teacher with Tiffin City Schools, and Erin Spetz, who teaches in Toledo – were instrumental in Enya’s success by introducing her to classroom concepts such as rigorous teaching methods and holding students to high standards. They modeled modeling teaching approaches and connected her to organizations like NABT even before she graduated.

Networking and mentoring relationships helped put Enya on a national playing field that was crucial to her success. “Those relationships and experiences are just the tip of the iceberg,” she says. “It’s like every relationship that I have built at Heidelberg was a little seed that really, with guidance and support, helped me grow into the educator that I am today.”

Speaking of ‘tip of the iceberg’ …

There’s no limit to what Enya will accomplish professionally. Not surprisingly, she already has a long list of professional goals that include completing her master’s degree. She’s looking for opportunities for leadership roles at her school and the local community, with a special interest in developing a community of teachers who are equally passionate about equitable teaching, “how to develop curricula and teaching practices that are anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-homo-transphobic and just more inclusive in biology education at large.” She’s currently working with teachers in the Knowles family and will be part of an upcoming presentation at NABT on how to make sex determination models more inclusive. She is also serving as the co-chair of the Summer Book Committee for books on equity for the Knowles Fellowship.

“I have so much more learning and growing to do, and I am excited for what the future might hold,” Enya says.

Enya will be honored with other NABT awardees at the organization’s Professional Development Conference in Atlanta in November.

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For any student (undergraduate and graduate) who plans to graduate December 2021, May 2022

It's Heidelberg Homecoming! Homecoming is a weeklong celebration of events where students and alumni together honor their Sweet Alma Home. Starting Friday, September 24, students can nominate an outstanding Heidelberg senior to Homecoming Court.
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The next deadline for grants from the Pepsi Fund and the Martha and Ernest Hammel Student Research Fund to support student research and/or travel to professional conferences is October 1, 2021.