I am a Georgia Southern graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology. My interest while in school was heavily focused on marine ecology and ichthyology, the study of fishes. Knowledge in those subjects and a history of camp and afterschool care provided me the opportunity to work at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium as a Georgia Sea Grant marine education intern.

I started with my hands full of brochures and books – literally. Maryellen Timmons, director of the marine education internship, gave me a tour of the facility and handed me resources to bring me up to speed on the history and mission of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. To my surprise, one of the education brochures contained a photograph of me and my friends participating in a marine debris class about six years ago.

Back in my high school days, Laura Ike, my science club teacher, would take us on trips to the center for a day of educational fun. It was because of those trips that I decided I wanted to become a biologist. I got to participate in interesting labs, where I learned about invertebrates that use docks as habitat and examined plankton under a microscope. Now I’m the one setting up labs and educating students.

It’s interesting how life can come full circle. In fact, my favorite experience so far was when Laura brought students from my old high school and Laura observed my teaching. She complimented me on a job well done and was impressed with my engagement while instructing the students.

The greatest tip I can give to someone seeking a position like this is to be confident. If you put in the time to prepare for a class and you deliver the information with confidence, the students and their teachers will leave with a great impression of you and the facility.

I’ve come to learn that teaching isn’t something you should be nervous about. You never stop being an educator here. The benefit of this position is that you are constantly absorbing new knowledge. With all the resources at the center, I can continue to educate myself and prepare for other classes. I utilize the textbooks, senior educators and even the educational signage in the building, but nothing is as effective as getting outside and exploring. For this reason, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant incorporates hands-on feet-in learning experiences when it comes to education. There’s nothing better than witnessing the excitement on students faces when they learn a new scientific technique or see an animal they’ve never seen before.

For example, I went out with marine educators Dodie Sanders and John “Crawfish” Crawford to the north end of Wassaw Island for a beach exploration trip with a group of middle school students. Knowing my background at Georgia Southern University as a fisheries technician and with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as a natural resource specialist, Dodie asked if I wanted to lead a lesson on beach seining. Beach seining involves two people pulling a long net through the water adjacent to the beach. I’d never led a seining lesson before but was eager to try.

I was thrilled to share the knowledge and techniques of seining that I’d learned in college. I got to see how excited the students were when they pulled up the net to see that they’d caught lots of little fish. I imagine I had a similar expression on my face the first time I tried seining.

The Marine Education Center and Aquarium has provided hundreds of thousands of students with the thrills and excitement of scientific investigation over the years. I am glad to be a part of the experience and add to the legacy by inspiring others in the same way that I was inspired so many years ago.