Why do I teach?
Why am I an educator? I teach because the world is full of problems needing solutions. Young people with a deeper grasp of how our interconnected world works have the agency and insights to address the most pressing issues facing humanity today: diseases needing cures, the effects of energy production and climate change, the social and economic impacts of persistent poverty, improving justice, creating sustainable communities, and alleviating inequalities within society.
I teach because I was inspired by Valeria Connors, John Price, Rick Ayres, Dr Mary Arthur, Ray Barker, Karen Dunnagan, Brother Borgia, and Brother John to pursue knowledge not only for the sake of knowledge, but to use that knowledge to make a difference in the world. Some people are the inventors and creators of solutions. Teachers guide and inspire young people to become those creators and direct their talents to tackling those challenges facing our world.
Why lead schools?
School leadership allows me to shape a future-facing culture in which students, teachers, and families are empowered to leverage their talents, passions, and networks to create meaningful and engaging learning experiences at every stage of children’s educational journeys. I design innovative, interdisciplinary, personalized curricula because I think young people who enjoy and are engaged in mastering new skills in school – not just memorizing facts – are most likely to develop the habits of lifelong learners to observe, analyze, test, and evaluate possible solutions to those challenges they will face at work, at home, and in society. Inspired, passionate students will have the drive and energy as adults to tackle poverty; improve access to clean water, information, adequate nutrition, and health care; shape the sustainable development of communities and nations; develop clean, scalable energy sources to combat climate change; and slow the loss of biodiversity on a global scale.
Why do I teach science?
I teach science because it gives us something to dream about for tomorrow, because it’s inspirational and a driver of positive change in our world. Science, broadly speaking, is a methodical approach to observing our world and figuring out ways to improve it by solving problems and overcoming challenges. Science, and necessity, are ultimately the parents of all invention. I want to share with students the wonders of the intricate, interdependent, and seemingly infinite universe we inhabit. I want them to experience firsthand the energy changes in chemical reactions, the structure and function of ecosystems, and the knowledge behind the creation of machines. I am wildly fascinated by science. In my mind, there is beauty in understanding how the physical and biological world works. Probing human interactions with and impacts on that world is what drove me to study resource conservation at university, to work on sustainable agriculture projects as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, and ultimately to pursue a career as a science teacher and school leader.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a more eloquent communicator than I am, so I will paraphrase him to explain what fuels my personal interest in the fields of astronomy, biology, chemistry, and ecology:
- When you consider the ingredients of stars and the broader universe, we find that the most common elements out there – hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen – are the same ones we’re made of, so that studying deep space isn’t just looking back in time, it’s examining something that we’re a part of, something extraordinary on a grand scale which transcends human or even planetary lifetimes.
- Given the rich chemistry of these common elements, with carbon so versatile that it’s capable of building a wider variety of molecules than all the other elements combined, something as profound as biological life just might inevitably arise from those chemical interactions, and that would mean we’re almost certainly not alone in this universe, which is somehow comforting.
Why teach internationally?
I grew up in Kentucky, where few people aspire to explore the rest of the planet and where there exists a certain ignorance of the cultures and attitudes of ‘other’ people. My parents always encouraged me to pursue my passions confidently, and that included leaving the comforts of familiar surroundings. While studying forestry during an exchange program in northeastern Finland, my horizons expanded significantly outward for the first time. Finding myself the constant center of children’s boundless curiosity in a remote corner of Senegal challenged me in ways I never imagined and forced me to evaluate what I truly value. Later, traveling overland across much of West Africa by local buses and taxis, I realized that the new sights, sounds, and smells of foreign places is what makes me feel alive. Teaching and traveling overseas allows me to maintain that mindset and share it with my family.