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Know Your Pelicans

Meet Jessica Genter

Science Teacher

Know Your Pelicans

What do you teach? What is one of your favorite parts of the curriculum?

I teach both biology and chemistry, and I love how much freedom I have to create a robust curriculum that focuses on getting students to think scientifically. Gone are my days of doing cookie-cutter labs with memorization-based answers. Instead, students are coming up with questions that they then answer themselves. I love it. It's challenging and my students get frustrated. But then they force themselves over the hump and they are SO PROUD when they figure it out. That moment right there - when they figure it out - I can't tell you how much that moment means to me.

What are the strengths of your department?

We are so collaborative. I could ask anyone in the science department for any kind of help and would get it no problem. It allows me to try new things, and become a better teacher, because I know I have such a wealth of knowledge and support right at my fingertips.

What are your impressions of Packer so far? Our students? Your colleagues?

I couldn't be happier here at Packer. I've found my people, and it feels really good to know that.

Tell us about a specific time you found your job especially rewarding.

Just the other day, I introduced a lab in which students had to figure out how to answer the question: Are fungi autotrophic or heterotrophic? They were given materials and a few guiding questions, but had to figure out how to set up an experiment such that the results would tell them if fungus eat food or create their own food. I watched as students played with the materials, reached into their bags for their notes, talked with each other, and got up to look at the information we had gathered around the room - all without me prompting. As it happened, another teacher walked into my room and asked the students what they were doing and why. My students' responses were eloquent, concise, and clearly showed that they could think logically through a problem. I was so impressed with them!

Besides your subject, what's something you hope to teach your students?

I think my answer about a rewarding moment best sums up what I hope to teach my students. So much of science is figuring out how to answer questions such that you actually get the answer to the question. It's not so much about what the answer is - science is at its heart about curiosity, not confirmation - but about being able to adequately stand behind claims you make with the evidence you see. It's a logic problem. And I want my students to be able to think through complicated ideas, evidence, and datasets with logic.

Tell us about a time you learned something from our students.

I have learned empathy from them. For personal reasons, I was very nervous when mask-wearing was about to move from mandatory to optional. I shared with this with my kids, and students in two of my classes independently decided to wear masks in my class all the time, even though they had decided to take them off elsewhere. I even had two students regularly stop by the nurse's office before my class to pick up a mask. It meant so much to me that they would do that for me.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why? 

I live in Queens, so as unoriginal as it sounds, the ability to fly would be AMAZING.

If you had an inspirational fridge magnet, what would it say and why? 

"Think scientifically." (I think it explains itself!)

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