Justin Hartman went to college knowing he wanted to do something biology-related.
That “something” turned out to be teaching, a path that both his parents had also happened to follow.
So maybe, the seventh-grade science teacher jokes, it was genetics that led him to his career.
Genetics or not, being an educator looks to be a good fit for Hartman, a life and earth science teacher who has been at Norwalk Middle School for seven years. He has been teaching for 16 years in Iowa, also having worked in Clinton and Central City.
“I’ve just always loved science, in general, but the life sciences, I’ve enjoyed the most,” says Hartman, who likes spending time outdoors.
When he was younger, Hartman had the chance to go on trips with his dad, a junior high science teacher, and his students. They would travel to places such as the Boundary Waters and Colorado.
It was during these trips that he had the chance to work with kids, and he discovered that he really liked it, says Hartman.
He went on to graduate with a bachelor of arts in biology from Northwestern College in Orange City. He also has a master’s in education from Viterbo University.
Hartman, who also coaches the middle school cross country and girls’ track teams, says one of the things he enjoys about working with middle schoolers is that students can still sometimes get excited over the simplest things.
For example, in a science demonstration on how temperature affects density and convection currents, he boiled macaroni. The students were entertained by the noodles moving up and down, and they thought it was fun, he says. But as they get older, they may be “too cool” to think that kind of stuff is neat.
Such demonstrations and hands-on labs help kids get involved in the lessons, something that Hartman says is a challenge. So even if science isn’t necessarily a student’s favorite subject, having such activities can get him or her engaged in learning.
Hartman says it’s also satisfying to help a struggling student finally have that “a-ha” moment and finally understand something.
“You can just almost see that light bulb go off in their head,” Hartman says.