Zoe Welsh is a Science Muse Contributor who teaches biology and is science department chair at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, N.C.
When I was asked to contribute to this online community, I was flattered. I love what I do and sharing that enthusiasm with others. However, I’m not much of a writer and, frankly, I’m a little intimidated by the process. Please forgive me in advance for the mistakes I am bound to make.
After overcoming my grammar-phobia, I decided that this first article should pay tribute to the two men most influential in my teaching career. I know that I would not be the teacher I am today if it weren’t for Roscoe “Frosty” Murdoch and John Burney.
My love for biology developed in an un-air conditioned, third floor science room. I was Mr. Murdoch’s biology student sophomore year, spent junior year learning anatomy from him, and chose to be his student assistant senior year. A lot of time has passed since those days, but I still remember how he treated his students—with respect and high expectations. My classmates and I pushed ourselves to do the very best, because we knew that Mr. Murdoch believed in us. I spent hours and hours stippling formal lab drawings, making sure I used enough contrast to exhibit the 3-D nature of the specimen. No other teacher inspired me to test the limits of my capabilities. I work every day to have a similar impact on my students.
The other man instrumental in making me the teacher I am today—Mr. John Burney (“Burney” to me). I was fresh out of college and at my first school when I met him. He was the school’s most-experienced biology teacher and a wonderful resource. I had a lot to learn. In my naïveté, I believed that administrators would want to know about the system’s imperfections. Burney advised me that instead of worrying about administrative problems, I should focus on meeting student needs. He said it wasn’t important to fight all the “dragons” out there—after all, administrations change. The battles I should devote my energy to were in my classroom, overcoming obstacles to learning
So, here I am. I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years and the importance of being student-focused still resonates with me. Now, I’m not going to lie, I’ve gotten quite a few dragon burns along the way. Regardless, I wouldn’t change a thing.