Faculty Focus

Faculty Focus: October 2018

Meet Biology Teacher/WYSE Coach and Swimming Alumna Amy Christophell '06.
What is your educational background?
AC: I have a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Greek and Roman Studies from Illinois Wesleyan University. I also have a Master of Education degree in Secondary Science Education from Loyola University Chicago.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
AC: Prior to realizing that teaching was my true calling, I thought that I wanted to be a veterinarian. So, while I was attending undergrad at Illinois Wesleyan University, I worked at a few different animal hospitals, vet clinics and kennels. I worked alongside small-animal vets, large-animal vets and exotic vets. I also was a volunteer zookeeper at the Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington, Illinois, for a while. The most exciting job that I had while volunteering at the zoo was helping with the training and feeding of the sea lions.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
AC: I am currently reading a couple of books for enjoyment with my son, Avyn. He loves to look at the pictures in his Read and Learn Bible for kids, and he also enjoys having me read his favorite book, Noisy Dinosaurs, over and over again.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
AC: My main interests that I pursue outside of the classroom are spending time with my family and anything water related. I love the pool, swimming and water polo. Currently, I am enjoying teaching my son how to swim.

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
AC: As a student at Fenwick, I was a member of the Varsity Girls’ Swim Team all four years of school. I was a distance swimmer, and my favorite high school event was the 500, which is 20 lengths of the pool. I also was a member of the Black Friars Guild and the Latin Club.

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
AC: Before I had my son, I was an assistant swim coach for the girls. I also was the girls’ water polo coordinator. Currently, I help Dave Kleinhans with the WYSE team by coaching Biology.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
AC: The main qualities that marks a Fenwick student is their determination to succeed, their respect for and service to others, their loyalty to the school, and their value of education.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
AC: I decided to become a teacher while I was attending the University of Missouri for vet school. During my first semester of vet school, even though I was successful in my classes, I realized that I was not passionate about becoming a veterinarian. After much contemplation, I realized that I felt the most fulfillment when I was working as teaching assistant for Organic Chemistry and as a teaching assistant for Ecology at Illinois Wesleyan. I loved being able to help a struggling student understand a concept by explaining it in a way that was different than the professors’. The moment when you see a student finally grasp a concept after struggling with it for so long is an extremely rewarding experience.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
AC: I think that my biggest personal strength in the classroom is my ability to set up an environment conducive to learning. Through my sense of humor and my ability to relate to the students, I am able to put them at ease within the classroom so that they are willing to readily participate in class. Even if they they are unsure of an answer to a question, I have found that the students are comfortable enough with still trying to answer questions during class. They are not afraid of making mistakes or answering questions incorrectly. They have found that incorrect answers are part of the learning process.

What is your philosophy of education?
AC: My philosophy of biological education stresses the importance of using hands-on activities and inquiry-based laboratory activities. I think that the best way for students to learn about science is to have them experience the scientific concepts themselves. Biology and other scientific concepts are all around us governing much of the way that the world works, and one of my goals in my classroom is to have the students understand this concept. They also need to be excited and engaged in what they are learning about in order to make profound connections with the material that could potentially lead to a new passion about the subject. The best way to help the students facilitate their interest in science is to guide them to ask questions that genuinely fascinate them.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
AC: My greatest success as a teacher is when my students that I had during their freshman or sophomore year come back their senior year to ask me for recommendation letters because they are interested in studying biology or medicine in college. When they tell me that my class ignited their passion to pursue a career in science, this brings me the greatest joy as an educator.

How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom?
AC: I feel that the students pick up on a teacher’s passion for the subject matter. When I am excited about the materials included in the lessons, the students pick up on it and, in turn, become motivated to understand why I am energized by the material.
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