By: Chloe Rudnicki |News Editor
December 15th, 2016
As the well-worn axiom goes, “Teachers affects eternity; they can never tell where their influence ends.” It is a mantra that lies at the heart of education and reflects the magical bonds that can be formed between teachers and their students. Knowledge is a precious gift that hones one’s identity and shines light on the world’s greatest mysteries. Knowledge is the cornerstone upon which a bigger and better future can be constructed. Its preciousness is juxtaposed by its plentifulness; learning can be achieved in all walks of life. It is not an elusive treasure.
All it requires to be unearthed is a mind willing to seek it out.
Mrs. Kerr is one of the teachers that recognizes this oft-ignored truth. Currently teaching Honors Biology and IB/AP Environmental Science, Mrs. Kerr is known for her passion in educating her students about the gravity of the environmental concerns plaguing the planet. She is adored by her students for her tireless work ethic alongside her boundless enthusiasm in the classroom and in explaining the intricacies of how the world’s physical systems interact with human society to form the Earth as it is today.
On occasion, she is known to confiscate a stray plastic water bottle from an unsuspecting student. Beyond her environmentally-friendly class rules, Mrs. Kerr’s classes are known to be rigorous yet among the most rewarding and interesting the school has to offer. Her classes have context beyond the constraints of a classroom and push students to understand and explore the environmental trends directly affecting their own lives and those of their future children.
There is a personal connection intertwined in Mrs. Kerr’s classes that can be a breath of fresh air for those tired of taking courses with little bearing on their lives beyond credits. As many students’ science paths will cross with Mrs. Kerr’s classes, Triton Times sought to get to know one of SCHS’ premiere teachers a bit better.
What inspired you to be a teacher?
I have been teaching since I was 13 years old. I started teaching three and four year olds arts and crafts, and so I think I’ve always just been a natural teacher. I didn’t think I was going to be a teacher when I was going through school, but when my children grew up I was literally in the classroom so much doing so many things I thought I might as well get paid for this. So that’s why I became a teacher.
What qualities do you think make an effective teacher?
Passion. A love of learning, always willing to grow, take risks, challenge yourself, and being open-minded. And you have to love teenagers.
What’s your favorite part of teaching biology and environmental science? Why are they important subjects to teach?
I don’t think students have a very good grasp of what is going on with the planet and the dangers that they face because of what is happening. As an environmental biologist, I feel one of the ways I can help make this world better is by teaching students what is going on so they can make a difference themselves and communicate that to their families. I do this to try and make the world a better place and inform people about what is going on. I just love it when I see these “a-ha’s” and when people are like, “Oh, I want to know” and they start to make changes and they’re talking to their friends. I get emails from parents like “Oh my god! We can’t use water bottles anymore” and I love that.
Speaking of “a-ha” moments, what has been the most memorable moment of your teaching career, if you can narrow it down?
I actually had a student receive the David Brower Award for Environmental Excellence with the state. When she was getting the award, I was in the audience and she made me stand and I was her role model for that. That was big.
How has your teaching style changed or stayed the same and why?
I love the new format we’re doing, where it’s more student centered and we’re working with them and giving them more time to solve problems and getting deeper into critical thinking and not regurgitation. I didn’t really do that when we were supposed to do that so I was always the hard teacher. But the fact that now all of this is what we’re supposed to do it’s just so exciting for me to be teaching critical thinking and to see students talking together like the World Cafe we did. I love the new pedagogical methods and what they’re encouraging.
How do you think classes like this encourage camaraderie among students and encourage that sense of community you’re talking about with common core learning?
I think what happens is once you get past that learning level and getting comfortable in the class; the class has to be safe and comfortable so the students can speak. Once that happens and they are learning that information, and what they learn here is so different from what their peers are learning, they have someone they can talk to and share that information with and get different viewpoints so that they can develop that strength. It’s really hard especially in some areas to say “Hey, this is not good and we need to make a change” because change is very hard for people. I think this empowers them to have that strength to stand up for it.
I would agree with that. So, what are your hobbies outside of school?
I love to garden and I have a fabulous garden. I love to hike and I love to travel. That’s kind of what I do and I always bring my travel in (to the classroom). And I’m with a couple groups. I know a lot of people in the community that are environmentally active and so I speak with them, but most of my energy is directed to the classroom.
What school did you go to and what did you major in?
I graduated from Laguna Beach High School, believe it or not, and I graduated from Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo with a degree in Environmental Systems and Biology. Then I went to Cal State Fullerton with several teachers, including Mr. Wilson and Mr. Proodian, and I happen to have my administrative credentials. I was an administrator for a couple years but I loved the classroom so I stayed.
If you had to give one piece of advice to students you’d want them to know about how to conduct themselves in the world, what would that be?
Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Be aware that you are a role model. And if you want to make changes, be the change you want to see in the world. I love Gandhi. I love that.
It’s a great quote.
Yep, it’s up on my board, and it’s hanging on my car.
Thank you so much for your time. It was very interesting and a lot of people have you as a teacher.