1. Tell us briefly about your background and how you arrived at teaching High School biology and Theory of Knowledge (TOK) at Graded.
My husband became a teacher and got a job at a school in England. When they found out I was moving with him, they hired me, too – first as a teaching assistant and then as a full-time classroom teacher. I loved it, so we went back to Canada the following year and I got my teaching degree, specializing in biology and philosophy. Before coming to Graded, I taught biology in Bulgaria and El Salvador.
2. When you were a student, who was your favorite teacher?
When I was earning my education degree, I had two amazing teachers who really influenced my teaching practice. One of them was an incredible model of how a teacher’s organization of things like lesson structure and resources, as well as their accessibility can really help students learn more effectively. The other teacher helped me build skills and confidence in teaching with social justice in mind. This has enabled me not only to manage, but also to encourage discussion of challenging questions inside and outside the classroom; questions about issues such as race, inequality, and identity. I believe this kind of education is just as important as the curriculum we study.
3. What is one of your hobbies?
A couple of years ago, I started learning calligraphy, or lettering, as it’s often called now. I really love drawing, but find it hard to make the time to produce substantial work. I’ve found that practicing lettering has given me a good creative outlet which can take as little or as much time as I have. You also have to choose what to write, which gives me the opportunity to create reminders or practice gratitude. It also makes it easy to whip up a nice card or quick gift for someone!
4. One of the central questions students wrangle with in Theory of Knowledge is "How do we know?" For those outside of your course, what is one thing we should all be doing to begin to answer this in our daily lives?
Part of the challenge of this question is that the answer depends on the context. The criteria for what constitutes valid knowledge changes depending on the field of study. “How do we know?” in our daily lives is more about practicing the basic critical thinking skills our students learn across disciplines every day. When we hear or read something, we should automatically consider the source, the statements made, who we are in terms of our personal biases and backgrounds, and how these things might influence our take on the information. This allows us not only to evaluate the information we come across, but also to be mindful of how our own perspectives affect our knowledge.
5. What is the secret to being content in all circumstances?
I’m not sure this is something worth striving for, to be honest. We learn the most from moments of discomfort, when we are being challenged. If you mean a more general contentedness as you move through different places and stages in life, I’d say the secret is knowing yourself and using that to build meaningful relationships with people.
6. Who is the most creative or artistic person you know?
I went to a special arts high school, and my dad is an artist, so I have the good fortune of knowing a lot of incredibly talented and creative people. Although I have a rather difficult relationship with my dad, one of the things I really love about him is his creativity. He sees the world differently than other people. For example, when we’re walking down the street, he’ll see images in the cracks of the sidewalk and use them later in his art. He taught me to observe the world around me, to question it, to interact with it, and to be inspired by it.
7. You’re often involved in Graded’s musicals. Tell us more about your music.
I grew up in a very musical family. My mother almost became a professional classical pianist, my father studied jazz piano in college before changing paths, and they both have beautiful voices. I took piano lessons and played clarinet in school, and my brother played trumpet, taught himself to play guitar and piano, and is an excellent singer. So I don’t remember a single day when there wasn’t someone playing music or singing. It has always been a part of my life. When I started working in Bulgaria, a colleague asked me to assist her in starting an a cappella group, which I helped run for three years. At my next school, I helped with the school choir and the musical production. When I moved to Graded, I was thrilled to discover Mr. Kelly’s commitment to building a strong Lower School musical theater tradition, as well as Ms. Grimes’ openness to having me help with the High School musicals. I feel grateful to be part of that special community here.
8. What do you consider “progress”?
If we understand progress simply as improvement, then an example of potential progress is the proposal a group of scientists recently made to build solar, wind, natural gas, and water infrastructure along the US-Mexico border. Although, like everything else, there are negative consequences to consider, the proposal addresses many problems, including economic, social, political, and environmental ones. That being said, the idea of “progress” is tricky for me. Can the technological and industrial “progress” we have made really be considered as such when we factor in the destruction it has wrought on the planet? Can the social and economic “progress” some societies have made be considered as such when we know what it has cost other societies that continue to pay for it? Of course, the development of knowledge, including new technologies, is valuable. However, we need to be more considerate of the larger ramifications when nations “progress.”
9. What was one vacation that lasted too long?
When I was 18, I spent three months traveling by myself in Guatemala and Honduras. I learned Spanish, and had many unforgettable, life-changing experiences. I also discovered that three months is probably the limit of time I can personally spend without a little routine and a more focused purpose in my day-to-day life.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
I love the relationships I have with my students and colleagues. I think this comes from the trust that is placed in my professional judgment and abilities, and the freedom that gives me to share my passions in and out of the classroom. I love that I can teach both biology and Theory of Knowledge and also participate in a wide variety of activities like the musicals and Femolution, the student feminist group. This allows me to build real connections with the people here, and that is deeply rewarding.