I build communities of learning, empathy, and problem-solving!

I'm a high school science teacher who learns with from and with AP Biology and Earth/space science students at Bloomington High School South in Bloomington, IN, where I live with my spouse and two young children.  

My family weathered emotional and financial instability while I was growing up, and I experienced first-hand the way school can be a refuge for students. 

In my teaching practice, I am committed to:

I am a National Board Certified Teacher, a Presidential Awardee (PAEMST), a Leonore Annenberg Teaching Fellow with the Institute for Citizens and Scholars (formerly the WW Foundation), a Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow, and a Senior Fellow at the Knowles Teacher Initiative, where I served for five years as an editor-in-chief at Kaleidoscope: Educator Voices and Perspectives

I'm also a proud member of our state's National Education Association affiliate, and I chaired the Earth and space science committee during the Indiana Department of Education's most recent Indiana Academic Standards Science revisions.

I am honored to be the 2025 President-Elect of the National Association of Biology Teachers

In addition to full-time teaching, I am currently an Armstrong Teacher Educator Fellow at Indiana University School of Education and a Carnegie Educator Advisory Panelist for the Carnegie Foundation, as well as active in the alumni networks of the MacArthur Foundation/TERC Climate and Equity Institute and Knowles

I am also the co-editor of SOCIAL ACTION STORIES, a work/book of high-impact storytelling for classroom and community.

I hold a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Stanford (before which I did a Fulbright in Denmark) and a master's degree in teaching from the Stanford Teacher Education Program

Besides classroom teaching, I have spoken nationally and facilitate professional development on educational topics including scientific argumentation, student-centered active learning in science, teaching science for justice, environmental and climate education, inclusive biology curriculum, the Next Generation Science Standards, education technology, AP Biology, Earth and space science, modeling instruction, and writing workshops. I also co-author and edit stories, curriculum, and peer-reviewed articles; see more information below.

Closer to home, I help to facilitate and coordinate curriculum for workshops where teachers from across the country learn more about educating for environmental change from scientists and educators at Indiana University.

Outside education, my interests include parenting and partnering, vegan food, animal representations in art and their ability to spark aesthetic force, running slowly with great enthusiasm, all-ages taekwondo, inexpert piano playing, and reading recent fiction and non-fiction. I am also a Girl Scout troop leader of an amazing multi-level troop.

Contact me at the email address on my resume below. I'd love to get in touch!

National awards and service in STEM teaching:

National awards in STEM research:

I am co-editor of the work/book SOCIAL ACTION STORIES, a collection featuring stories from storyteller activists, education reformers, and community organizers, coupled with activities to help readers leverage the stories in their own journey as justice-oriented activists and educators.

Find out more here!

Selected storytelling on teaching and learning:

"'When I started teaching high school science, I thought I knew best how my students and I could tackle the politicization of climate change — but when I asked students how our learning was going, they told me, and here I quote, that 'every activity [in our ecology and climate unit was] more depressing than the last.' How, I wondered, could we build a classroom environment focused on climate resilience, while still acknowledging the big feelings that climate anxiety can (rightfully) cause? Turns out my students were the ones who helped me figure it out!"

"Teachers can make incredible connections with their students that strengthen their learning and growth. But what happens when there’s a missed connection? In this personal and moving audio piece inspired by George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From,” science teacher and Knowles Senior Fellow Kirstin Milks describes how an interaction with one of her own high school teachers echoed forward into her life as an educator."

A version of this story also appears in SOCIAL ACTION STORIES and is referenced in YOUR TURN.

"Five years ago, the weekend after being awarded my Ph.D. in biochemistry, I enrolled in my university’s teacher preparation program and have never looked back. As an educator, I’ve learned the most by bringing authentic scientific practices into the classroom and collaborating with students to further all our learning."

"When I reached out to a failing and undocumented student, his trajectory changed—and my teaching practice was strengthened."

Peer-reviewed articles on science education:

"Interpreting [phlyogenetic trees] is a key skill for biological literacy. In this lesson, students interpret [trees] based on familial relationships and language relationships to build their understanding of tree thinking and to construct a definition of 'common ancestor.' These skills can then be applied to a true biological cladogram." 

"Analyzing evolutionary relationships requires that students have a thorough understanding of evidence and of how scientists use evidence to develop these relationships. In this lesson sequence, students work in groups to process many different lines of evidence of evolutionary relationships between ungulates, then construct a scientific argument for a particular set of relationships as modeled in a [phylogenetic tree]. Visual and verbal scaffolds are used throughout the lessons to address common misconceptions and points of difficulty for students."

I’ve also co-authored four peer-reviewed scientific research articles on cell division and on photosynthesis in bacteria.

Short-form résumé follows; see my full-length professional profile at this link.

Short form Professional profile -- Kirstin Jane Milks

Photo by Lisa Spencer.