A ‘real’ teacher

My first teaching position was a 2/5 Biology position at a public high school, I was hired one week before school started. I think they found my resume at the bottom of the pile after they had contacted each applicant from the 99 resumes that were on top of mine. I had a science degree, but not a teaching degree or teaching license. The only ‘classroom’ experience I had was as a Teacher’s Assistant’s Assistant for  Botany I and Botany II courses at UD during my junior year, and as a public school substitute teacher after graduation.

In 1996, Alternate Route Certification was not a very common or a well-known way to earn a teaching degree, and to be honest, was viewed as being ‘less’ and not equal to a ‘real’ teaching degree. Many teachers (at the time) thought it was unfair and that I was taking jobs away from ‘real’ teachers who earned their teaching degrees/licenses. Needless to say, it made for some very uncomfortable conversations.

When I met my Science Supervisor, he was honest and told me that he was unhappy that I was hired without being interviewed by him (he was on vacation), and he has never had anyone in the science department do this ‘alternate route thing’. When he asked me where I earned my science degree, I told him that I graduated from Delaware the year before. Suddenly, his whole demeanor changed – he had gone to Delaware and graduated in the 60’s. Go Blue Hens!

He ended up being an amazing and supportive Supervisor that year. The whole science department took me under their wing and really helped me become the teacher I am today. At the end of the year, the 2/5 position was no longer needed for the following school year, but a F/T Chemistry position was opening up instead and he asked if I was interested. I told him I was only going to be certified for 7-12 Biology and K-8 all subjects. He was disappointed that I wasn’t able to teach Chemistry, but immediately offered me the full-time position for 6th grade science instead. I said yes, of course!

The math teacher I had worked with told me about an opening for a summer school position at an independent high school near where I was living. It would be teaching a Biology course for students who wanted to advance to Chemistry as incoming Freshman, setting them on a higher science track. Teach a whole year of Biology in 6 weeks? Yikes!

Keep in mind that I had binders full of transparencies, no ppt slides, no Youtube videos, and very limited internet content available. It was 1997. The school had a new computer lab, and I took the kids to the lab after lunch to work on ‘interactive’ websites, do research, etc. This website, which is still online, was one of the first websites I ever used with my students. It was for breeding peas:


Somehow, we covered everything that needed to be covered, I was following the current Biology teacher’s lesson plans. (She taught the course during the regular school year.)

With a year of teaching under my belt, including summer school, I finally became a ‘real’ teacher and earned my certification.