VDA Teacher since 2006
Tell me a little about your personal and educational background.
I spent most of my younger childhood in North Dakota and most of my high school and college years in Iowa, primarily in small rural towns. I got a bachelor's degree in physics, and masters and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering, all from the University of Iowa. After graduating, I wandered around a little, spending time in various engineering positions in Seattle and Maryland.
When and why did you decide to become a teacher?
I did a little teaching in graduate school as a graduate assistant, and I really enjoyed it. For many years, I intended to become a professor of engineering. While in graduate school, I made some interesting discoveries about what was wrong with the way science is typically taught, and I found that learning science, contrary to the experience of many, could actually be fascinating and fun if done the right way. I also came to realize that primary education was in an even sorrier state than college education, and I decided that I might be able to do even more good at lower levels than as a college professor.
Why did you choose science as your specialty?
I chose to study science and engineering long ago because I loved to tinker and to figure out how things work as a child. My interest in teaching science grew out of that.
What brought you to VanDamme Academy?
I had known about VanDamme Academy for a while, and some of my own ideas about education were in part informed or inspired by the writings of Lisa VanDamme. At one point, I discovered that VDA had an open position for a Junior High instructor. I wrote and explained my interest to Lisa and discovered that she had a need at that time for a new science program. It was the same time I was beginning to form my own dreams of writing my own science program, and so it was a lucky match.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Ballroom dancing. I took flying lessons for a while and loved it, but that's something to which you really need to be able to devote large blocks of time. I'm hoping to take more lessons next summer.
Do you have any favorite stories about your teaching experience?
I remember giving a quiz a couple of years ago on muscles and bones, and watching a classroom of students all waving their arms around in devout concentration trying to remember which muscle does what. I'm also very proud of the fact that a certain curious and intelligent student once chose me as the subject of her "Person I Most Admire" essay in writing class.