Ferris educator named state Science Teacher of the Year

April 23, 2019 GMT

Darci Hastings delights in her students’ failures as much as their successes.

That’s what makes a good scientist – and this year’s state Science Teacher of the Year.

Hastings received the news March 30 in Bremerton at the conclusion of the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair.

As the winner’s bio was being read at the awards ceremony, “These guys were all screaming,” Hastings said with a nod toward her students at Ferris High School. “It was exciting and humbling.”

Then again, so is science. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Not long ago, a failing project left Ferris senior Mackenzie Burkhead frustrated to the point of quitting her class.

However, Hastings, who has taught for 20 years, embraces her students even more than she does biology.

“She told me, ‘you’re not going to fail, you’re going to finish this project,’ ” recalled Burkhead, who plans to major in biology or environmental science at Washington State University.

“She’s just a wonderful teacher,” said Burkhead, who warmed to the sciences as a freshman in Hastings’ first-year biomedical studies class.

“And even when she wasn’t my teacher, she was there anyway,” said Burkhead, who interns for Hastings in second period and was part of the Ferris contingent in Bremerton.

“She’s pretty awesome,” Ferris Principal Ken Schutz said. “She’s just a person that has incredible relationships with students, and everything she touches turns to gold.”

A career in alchemy wasn’t in Hastings’ plans when she graduated from Lewis and Clark High School and earned a degree in biological anthropology at Western Washington.

Next, she pursued a teaching degree at Whitworth. After being a student-teacher at Ferris for one year, she landed a full-time job a year later and been there ever since.

Along with other teachers, Hastings has helped point many students into the sciences.

“She’s able to relate that into the students’ lives,” said Schutz, who noted that many Ferris seniors have been inspired to pursue health field careers thanks to the biomedical classes.

“That program is just thriving,” Schutz said. “We’ve had some kids going directly into nursing programs, and that’s because she cares about their total lives, about their avenues and choices after school.”

They are stories of success, all built on a few failures.

“My fourth-year kids have learned from failure,” Hastings said. “We’ve had a lot of struggles – testing and failing, and a lot of it is failing.”

“They expect things to work perfectly, but a lot of things can happen,” Hastings said.

Eden Cossette’s senior project involved testing the metal composition of different fertilizers on a plant.

“I definitely had some bumps,” said Cossette, who had been counting on assistance from a teacher at Eastern Washington University.

When that fell through, Hastings came to the rescue “whenever I needed it, through the phone or even texting,” said Cossette, who plans to major in nutrition at Seattle Pacific University.