Good Thinking! — Introducing: Ms. Reyes
The world of Good Thinking! is full of interesting characters, each of whom bring their own brand of humor and information to the series. None are as vital to the show's mission, however, as its main protagonist and star--science teacher Isabella Reyes. Ms. Reyes is the only character who appears in every Good Thinking! episode, and much of the series takes place either in her classroom or in her imagination.
The initial concept for the character was a faceless, mostly off-screen (like the adults from Peanuts) proxy for the show's target audience: educators looking to refresh their knowledge of science and strengthen their teaching methods. This approach would provide viewers with an experience that mirrored their everyday interactions in the classroom.
As the series took shape, however, we recognized the need to communicate more directly with our audience. Many of our staff members have experience teaching K-12 science, and they impressed on all of us how frustrating top-down "initiatives" can be to experienced educators. By having Ms. Reyes take the lead, we hoped that teachers would see her as a friend and colleague--learning and laughing alongside her.
Enter Isabella Reyes: devoted teacher, admitted science-nerd and the new face of Good Thinking!
An experienced educator, Ms. Reyes certainly knows her way around a classroom, but she is also fascinated by science and dedicated to constantly improving her practice. As Marjee Chmiel, Associate Director of Curriculum and Communications at SSEC, describes:
"When we had to think about who Ms. Reyes was as a person, I conjured many of the women and men I've met in this science and science education world ... I think science has a way of challenging people such that self-deprecation or not taking yourself too seriously becomes a survival skill. Not all scientists or science teachers develop those traits, by any means! But my favorite ones have and I saw that as something that would shine through Isabella."
A good sense of humor and bright personality were therefore essential--and we were fortunate to find the prefect mix in the voice of professional voice actor Lisa Ivery. Lisa's portrayal of Ms. Reyes brought warmth and life to the character, which we filled out with traits from many of the real-life standout educators we had all met throughout the years. The result was a main character that is both likable and relatable to our audience, as Jean Flanagan, SSEC's Science Education Research Specialist, explains:
"One of my favorite things about Isabella is the way she talks to her students. She conveys the confidence and passion of a teacher, but is never a self-centered 'performer.' She listens carefully to everything they say -- even their jokes -- and finds ways to turn any conversation into part of the science learning process."
While Ms. Reyes is very much an experienced professional in her field, she is also the primary learner of the series. Isabella's openness to new ideas, and the kinds of struggle that help teachers to grow throughout their careers, was essential to the success of Good Thinking! as a tool for self-guided professional development. As Dr. Chmiel explains:
"We also thought carefully about what it looks like to say 'I don't know' in a way that demonstrates her power rather than making her appear ambivalent or uncertain. As Isabella interacts with various crazy characters, we wanted her questions to come from a true spirit of inquiry. She's always learning about her craft because that's what it means to be a reflective professional."