Hi! I am Jodi Wheeler-Toppen, a science teacher and science writer, with a passion for helping young people become confident science readers and writers.
I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was in elementary school. Science writing, however, was not in the plans. I didn’t even like science! Instead, I had definite plans to be the next Lloyd Alexander.
High school flipped those plans on their head. I had a fantastic biology teacher, Jaqueline Baker, who made science Exciting! Fascinating! Fun! Writing was out. Science was in.
I declared myself a biology major in my first semester at Samford University, and by the end of my time there, I had decided to follow in Mrs. Baker’s footsteps as a high school science teacher.
However, at Samford, another excellent teacher cast writing in a new light for me. Larry Davenport, the botany guru of the university, was a stupendous science communicator. He could talk about pollination as if it were a noir mystery, and describe the life cycle of an aquatic plant as if it was the world’s greatest love story. He wrote a monthly nature column for a regional magazine. I read it, and I was hooked. I began to dip her fingers into science writing, even as I headed to Wake Forest for an M. Ed. and a teaching certificate.
I continued writing as a biology teacher. Eventually, I headed off to graduate school because I wanted to research a problem my students were having. I kept finding student after student who was interested in science but held back by poor reading skills. I looked for resources to help me teach these kids, but couldn’t find any that seemed to make a difference.
So I left the classroom, on a quest I hope would have made Lloyd Alexander proud. I battled my way through the forces of academia at the University of Georgia in search of a Ph.D. and the answer to the question: Is there a way for science teachers to help students who are struggling with basic literacy? (You can skip the dissertation. The tl;dr version is Yes.)
From there, I began working as a teacher-of-teachers and a serious science writer. I have done staff development across the country on integrating reading, writing, and science. I also taught for UGA for several years, especially enjoying a class on helping students with special needs succeed in science.
My writing includes the Once Upon a Science Book series, which are teacher books on integrating reading and science, for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Press; multiple books with Capstone Press; and two with National Geographic Kids. My most recent book is Dog Science Unleashed: fun activities to do with your canine companion. There’s another book with National Geographic Kids on the way. (You didn’t think I’d do a dog book without a cat book, did you?).