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  • Writer's pictureThe Spartan Press

Meet the New Science Teachers!

By Julienne Cancio & Jessica Ferrer '21

We are pleased to bring back our popular “Meet the Teachers” series, where we get to hear from ICA Cristo Rey’s newest faculty and staff. Today we introduce Ms. Amanda Harrison and Mr. Justin Howell.

Ms. Amanda Harrison, Physics

Where did you grow up? What do you think is the difference between living in Riverside vs. living here?

I grew up in Riverside, California. There's small things like just the weather, like I grew up it was more like a desert kind of, there’s a lot more desert there; so it’s like very hot, stays very warm, not as rainy and cold. But other than that, I feel like it’s very similar in terms of like it’s not that big of a culture shock or anything like that.

Where did you go to college?

I went to college in Whittier College, also in SoCal. It’s a small, private liberal arts school. I majored in Physics with emphasis in astronomy and in math.

What subject are you teaching and why?

I’m teaching physics, just like the 12th grade algebra-based physics, and helping out with Calculus.

Why did you apply to ICA?

So before coming back out here I was in grad school in Indiana, and so I wanted to take a break from grad school and so I wanted to come back to California, because I didn’t like Indiana too much.... So I was just applying for a bunch of jobs, and I like teaching and so I applied to any kind of like teaching jobs and I like the Bay Area, it’s really cool different from where I’ve lived, from Riverside and I’ve also lived like L.A. County and all that, so I wanted to try San Francisco. And so I found this school, and when I did the interview... Normally I’m not that much in support of private schools, because I feel like education should be free. But I did like the set up of ICA where the Work Study Program seemed to give you a chance to understand different work environments and all that, so I found that like an interesting kind of concept. And I like that it’s a college-prep school, because college is important.”

What have you been doing to teach during this pandemic, and what are some of the challenges you have encountered, if any?

...It’s hard to read people, you know it's hard to gage your understanding and all that. I usually use Pear Deck, which is similar to the Neapod you guys use for Calculus. And then just some websites where we can do some simulations, so we can’t do in-person labs but we can simulate what we’d actually do in-person...

What are some of your recommendations to students who may be struggling at this time of the year?

Well I just always say during the pandemic in general, it’s very isolating, so make sure you... reach to somebody outside your home, even if it’s just like a text message, like I don’t know at least once a week or something, so at least you’re in contact with people and so you have a small community in that way. If you’re struggling with school, then office hours are always nice. All of us teachers are like, “It’s always so lonely when you guys don’t come to office hours”. So make sure to stop by, even if you might not have a question, just come by and say hi if anything. And ask any questions, or do your work with us.

Which Disney character are you most like and why?

My first thought would be like I’m Mulan, I just like Mulan. Like if I like something, and put my all into it…

Mr. Justin Howell, Conceptual Physics

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Okinawa, Japan and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Can you talk about the difference between where you have lived versus where you currently live?

Well living in Okinawa at the time when I was really young was amazing because I was on a military base, and on the military base it felt like the states and then outside the base was like a whole new world. And I really enjoyed the culture....

Where did you go to college? What did you major in, and why?

I went to college at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Graduated there in 2009. And I also played division one soccer there... Which is the reason I ended up going to choose Drake, outside of its academic institution of giving me an education and degree after soccer.

I studied environmental science and graduated at that. As well as, funny enough, in a landlocked state, tropical ecology and the evolution of senescence, which is aging, so why we age.

What subject are you teaching and why?

I am teaching Conceptual Physics, because it was also something I really, really enjoyed in college as a class that I did take a few of. And it's always been the interest and wonder of why, because of a lot of physics is based upon the things we can’t see and observe and to me it’s the biggest opportunity to imagine that there are the things around you that you that you can’t understand until you dive deeper into finding out, and when you find out, about all the times you end up in awe.

Why did you apply to ICA?

Dr. Fornero gave me a call and I welcomed the opportunity and showed him a few classes about physics and kind of the fun that it can be when you’re in-person; it’s a lot more difficult virtually. I really like the culture and leadership at this school and since it's been hard to meet all the staff, but a few of them have been warm, welcoming and really awesome to be around. So for me it was a great opportunity to join that culture of staff and leadership, in addition to the opportunity to give back to students that have an opportunity to go to college and the success rate that this school has is extraordinary, to be able to do that.

What have you been doing to teach during this pandemic, and what are some of the challenges you have encountered, if any?

...I learned as a teacher to get less lecture-based and let the girls go into breakout rooms and be a part of their own understanding. For example, from leading a lecture of a lesson in the chapter concept, to having the girls present it together on jamboard and presenting it to the class and then myself in a much smaller scale of lecturing what they did well and what may be was missed, to make sure the rest of the class understands it. I keep them more and more involved than I would in the beginning of the year. So it’s less of looking at me and listening to me, and letting them be a part of it...

What are some of your recommendations to students who may be struggling at this time of the year?

Reach out to someone who is doing well, and find out why they’re doing well and see if you can relate to it, see if it’s not something you have thought about... but if this is important to you as a student and you want to do well, then don’t accept not doing well and find those surrounding yourself that are and be part of that environment versus an environment that’s accepting that this is an excuse for me not to do well.

Which Disney character are you most like and why?

I would say Aladdin, because it’s fun, it’s charismatic, he’s not worried about being somebody else, he is himself, and you know he’s willing to grow and learn.

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