Feature: Is There a Doctor in the House? M-A Welcomes Bio Teacher Dr. Rachel Richards
The newest biology and environmental science teacher, Dr. Rachel Richards, has pursued her passion and expertise for science to great lengths, from obtaining a PhD to working in a research institute and finally, to fulfilling a teaching position here at M-A.
Dr. Richards, a Bay Area native, is an avid fan of animals, art, the outdoors, and above all, science. She first discovered her love for the life sciences in the eighth grade when she and her class conducted an experiment with fruit flies. “I was always there after school breeding weird flies,” she said, “I got hooked.”
She decided to pursue her interest in science, majoring in molecular biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and subsequently completing her PhD in the same subject at Washington University in St. Louis. As Dr. Richards worked as a teaching assistant to meet her graduation requirement, she realized that education was the career path she wanted to pursue. Dr. Richards recalled, “I spent so much time [teaching] that my professor kept wondering why I wasn’t in the lab more.”
After graduating, Dr. Richards participated in a fellowship at Scripps Research Institute, a biomedical research facility near San Diego. However, she still felt as though there was something missing in her career, and she realized that although she was working in biology, the subject of her passion, it was not researching but rather teaching that she genuinely loved.
Though with her doctorate, Richards is qualified to teach as a professor, she chose not to due to her “love [for] working with young people” and her preference of teaching to research, which working as a professor would entail. “It’s an awesome career; it just wasn’t the best for me in the long run.” As a result, Dr. Richards is among the few teachers at M-A with a doctorate, alongside AP calculus teacher, Mr. Brodkey, who obtained his PhD from Stanford University.
Dr. Richards’ primary goal as teacher is not just to teach the curriculum but also to engage her students in critical thinking, letting them develop those skills by means of scientific exploration. “My mission is to teach students to think for themselves based on evidence and facts,” she said, and hopes that her students will become involved in biotechnology projects and enter science fairs; she also envisions starting a biotech club.
Over the course of her career at M-A, Dr. Richards plans to continue teaching science and may try to teach environmental science at the AP level, which would greatly alleviate the limited availability of the high-demand spots in the APES classes.
Dr. Richards expressed that she wants to be a teacher her whole life, and plans to further engage her students in biotechnology and the exploration of science. Her hard work and dedication to the sciences and engaging her students are promising signs for a great new teacher at M-A.