Science teacher Nina Hike remembers teaching in the pre-Google days when she brought pets into the classroom to teach biology. That was in 1996, when she began her 28-year teaching career with a position at Orr High School.
“I walked into Orr High School and they gave me a Biology teacher edition box and just said ‘teach,’” she recalled. “I had to be creative, no Google or computers. So, I brought in class pets and focused on laboratory investigations.”
A love of science
Hike credits her mother with nurturing her love of science by allowing her the freedom to explore the woods and community near their Altgeld Gardens Housing Project apartment, collecting various insects and plants. And it was her mother who introduced her to the University of Illinois Chicago, where she was taking classes when Hike was in preschool.
Hike attended four different elementary schools on the south and west sides, then attended Orr and graduated from Sullivan High School. She then earned her bachelor of science degree in biology from UIC in 1996 and a master’s in secondary education and teaching from DePaul in 1999. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at UIC.
Hike didn’t think her pre-med college path would lead her to teaching, but while earning her degree at UIC she volunteered to mentor CPS students through the Darryl Stingley Youth Foundation and found she had a knack for it. The rest, as they say, is history.
After Orr, Hike taught at Curie High School for 21 years until moving to Westinghouse College Prep in 2019.
“When I started at Westinghouse during the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, my Black, woman, mother, and science teacher identities merged, so I’ve been developing and implementing curricula around Black, Brown, and women scientists and social justice science issues,” she said.
Hike is interested in exploring the lived experiences of new teachers and how race and racism shape their science identities, pedagogy, and instructional practices while teaching students of color. She has worked with students from middle school to high school in regular and enrichment classes, integrating innovative, research-based content and laboratory skills.
In addition to her teaching, Hike has worked with the Baxter Center for Science Education and the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Teachers to learn innovative ways to teach science to her primarily Black and Brown students. Along with a fellow CPS teacher, she also produces the Pushing Praxis: Dialogues for Transforming Teaching podcast. The podcast explores the ways in which educators can transform power, racism and acculturation in their classrooms.
Inspired to use her voice
A CTU member since 1996, Hike recalled how she first became inspired by the union’s work when she met Karen Lewis as a student at Sullivan High School. “Karen made me feel empowered that my voice could change things in my school and community and I’ve been using my voice ever since,” she said.
As a CTU activist, Hike is a member of the union’s elected executive board, its Human Rights committee and the IFT’s executive board. She has won several awards in her teaching career, including as a state finalist for the 2021 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation’s highest honor for science teachers.
Accolades are nice, but Hike derives the most joy and pride from her classroom.
“My favorite part of teaching science is to see my students develop a love for science and pursue careers in STEM,” she said. “And I’m proud to have the opportunity to create and implement social justice science curricula and share them with other teachers.”