Seagan Wortley had a list of things she needed to make her new classroom at Joplin High School feel more like home.

A fish …

Some plants …

Lots of posters …

A model cow heart.

As students make their way into the new JHS campus on Sept. 2, Wortley will be joining them as she begins her professional career teaching biology. The cow heart and other science-related visual aids and equipment just come with the territory for her chosen field.

A 2014 graduate of Missouri Southern with a degree in secondary education with an emphasis in biology, Wortley said she’s excited to begin teaching classes in the new high school.

The first day of school marks the reuniting of all of Joplin’s high-school students. The ninth and 10th graders and the 11th and 12th graders had been split between two campuses – one at Northpark Mall and the other at the former Memorial Middle School – after JHS was destroyed during the May 22, 2011, tornado.

Seagan Wortley, who graduated in the spring of this year, is teaching biology at Joplin High School.

Seagan Wortley, who graduated in the spring of this year, is teaching biology at Joplin High School.

“Everyone’s excited to be on one campus again,” said Wortley.

Wortley will spend half of her day teaching sophomore biology classes, and then the other half teaching a class for Project Lead the Way – a partnership between JHS and Franklin Technology Center.

“It’s a really cool program,” she said of Lead the Way. “It’s for any student who wants to go into the health field, whether they want to be a doctor or a forensic scientist. It’s all projects based.”

Her first official classroom has plenty of amenities, from an Apple TV system to a colored smartboard that spans an entire wall of the room and blends in seamlessly with the rest of the wall.

“From a teacher’s standpoint, it’s very nice,” Wortley said. “I can’t wait to see how the students react to it.”

She did her student teaching on the Memorial campus and said Joplin was her No. 1 pick when it came time to begin applying for teaching positions.

“I was excited about the science program here in Joplin,” she said. “I had applied at two other places, but my interview here went really well and I was offered the job.”

She first started out at Missouri Southern as a business major who hoped to one day open her own flower shop. She credits Dr. James Jackson for helping steer her toward the biology field.

“Dr. Jackson told me, ‘You need to be a science major,’” she said. “I went into radiology, and it dawned on me how big an emphasis my high-school teachers were and the role they played in my life.”

That, in turn, led her to the education program, with a goal of teaching biology at the high-school level.

Jackson said her potential both as a student and future teacher were evident early on in her college career.

“She has the kind of personality that’s vital for teaching,” said Jackson. “Secondly, she has a real passion for biology. There are students who just want to get into physical therapy or become a cardiac surgeon. Seagan has a broad, almost renaissance interest in biology.

“I appreciate people going into the teaching field right now, when it might seem obvious that the whole education system isn’t as rewarding as it could be. They’re going in because they really want to create excitement for biology and science.

“She’s one of those people who are motivated to inspire other people. She’ll be outstanding.”