Ashton Powell

Teaching Experience


I am a public school teacher at the North Carolina School of Science & Mathematics (NCSSM) in Durham.  For the past 10 years, I have taught biology to talented 11th and 12th grade students from across the state.  I hold a PhD in Neurobiology from UNC-CH and am a National Board-Certified Teacher in Science/Adolescent & Young Adulthood. 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with students of our district at multiple levels: through my own children, by teaching some our best and brightest, and following them into the university setting.  I have been able to see the impact of our policies on the educational outcomes of our students as well as their mental health. 

NCSSM is a residential high school that is a member of the 17 campus UNC System.  During this time, I have been fortunate to teach a diverse group of exceptional students from across the state, including many from our district.  My experiences at NCSSM have been essential for my understanding of how to inspire children to learn.  

Reflecting on my opportunity to work with some of the most talented students from most every background and challenging situation NC has to offer, the factor that truly unifies them in success is their engagement.  My students come to NCSSM excited to be challenged.  I feel a need to honor their enthusiasm by letting them know that they have a place in my courses, that their personal experiences and backgrounds have value in the subjects I teach.  If a student can’t see themselves represented in the curriculum, their potential for success is hamstrung.  This is especially true for underrepresented minorities and women in STEM fields.

My teaching at NCSSM has also helped me better understand the experiences of our Asian community.  The prejudice and pressures many of my students face come from a callousness in how this diverse community is lumped together as a monolithic culture.  While this community has experienced success in our schools, we often perpetuate behavior that has undermined other minority communities.  I have grown in my understanding of these communities over the past decade and hope to help others do the same.