Impact Stories

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LPIE Science Instructor Lisa Adams

1. What do you do for LPIE and how long have you been doing it?

I teach Science to the wonderful children of the district inthe five schools. I've been officially teaching for LPIE since last year. Before that, I took any opportunity I could to volunteer in the class, especially the Science Lab. It was then I knew I wanted to work for LPIE. After observing a class taught by one of our other Science Instructors, I returned home, called my husband and said, "I'm going to do this". I wasn't sure how it would happen, just that it would.

In a serendipitous turn of events, toward the end of the school year I was contacted by a new acquaintance who was familiar with my background. She told me LPIE was looking for Instructors. And here I am!

2. Tell us about your background and experience in this area.

I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Molecular Biology with a Concentration in Biotechnology and a Minor in Chemistry. I was fortunate enough to be admitted into this specialized major in college. There were only 10 of us and I was the sole female.

What differentiated this field of study included a few things: We would graduate with a BS degree (vs. a BA). We were required to take a host of graduate level classes instead of standard electives. And, the major was primarily tailored for students on a path toward obtaining a PhD. After many days (and nights) in the Lab, I realized I enjoyed my social interactions too much to spend most of my time 'behind the bench'. Concurrent to this, in my often-limited spare time, I was a Teaching Assistant since I always enjoyed sharing knowledge and helping others learn. I guess you could say the teaching seed was planted then.

Post-graduation, after working a short stint in academia, I wanted to parlay my technical experience into the drug development arena. I had previously interned in big pharma so thus began my career in compliance, specifically quality assurance, project management and regulatory affairs. Again I continued dabbling in teaching by tutoring elementary through high school kids in Math and Science.

Twenty odd years later, I left the workplace to raise our boys. During this period, I worked briefly as a consultant for my former company and then branched off to consult on my own. I also considered teaching more seriously and took the initial exam the State requires for credentialing, the CBEST. I did well and that now allows me to substitute teach in the District when I have a day off here and there from my LPIE responsibilities. In my current LPIE role, I get to apply a bit of what I know combined with my love of kids. A win-win!

3. What is your favorite thing about working with this age group?

Well, my age group spans a rather broad range encompassing TK up to 8th grade students. For my youngest students, I'd say I find the purity of their minds fascinating. They are like sponges, absorbing a wealth of information while on the brink of putting it together. And the pride in their work! My heart swells when they brim with excitement to answer a question or show me something they’ve accomplished.

At the mid-to-older elementary stage, it’s thrilling to see the connections come together in a class I'm teaching. That moment a student just 'gets it' is nothing short of extraordinary. At this level they can better articulate their thought processes, which I also enjoy.

I am particularly fond of the maturity level of my older students. While of course at this point in their lives, many feel self-conscious and at times even awkward, I admire the way they flourish in class. I enjoy observing them sort things through without immediately raising a hand, or negotiating with classmates when they don't agree on a point, or even sharing with me what they learned. It allows for more mini-adult conversations. The subject matter is easiest for me to teach at this level due to my background and the obvious fact the older kids comprehend differently.

4. What is the most surprising thing you’ve found about teaching this age group?

The impact we have. The excitement the students express when having an LPIE Science class on a given day. And, each student's memory of details from a particular class. I often see my students around town and it's indescribable when they run up to me and share something from earlier in the day or that week - a lesson learned, an observation, an accomplishment, a result from something I encouraged them to try at home. This validates why I teach.

Our actions have immeasurable impact. Here is a recent example. A fifth grader approached me the other day and told me about his sister who recently got a rash from poison oak. In telling me this, he stated, "I remembered what you taught me last year. That saying, Leaves of Three Let it Be. I tried telling her but she didn't listen!"

5. In your opinion, what is the most exciting area of science right now?

Immunotherapy in the fight against cancer. Immunotherapy is essentially using a patient's own immune system, or body's natural defenses, in this fight. This can be done via substances made by the body or in a lab. Breakdown of one's immunity leads to sickness. Conversely, strengthening said system can have the opposite effect. I say this simply though and it is anything but. One's immune system is vast and complicated. We have networks of cells, tissues, and organs all working together to defend foreign invaders.

There is much research still to be done in this arena. And, there are mindsets to be changed regarding standard, conventional treatments like radiation and chemotherapy that don't always work and come with their own host of side effects.

Generally speaking; however, there are things we each can do to aid in this approach, and we've all heard them before. Eat well, get enough rest, limit stress, exercise, smile, laugh. The reality is we are challenged by toxins on a daily basis, from our foods to the personal care products we use to the air we breathe. These toxins have the potential to trigger any one of our cells to commence growing out of control, resulting in disease. I'd ask everyone to be mindful of what we put in and on our bodies.

6. What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spend time with our boys, Dylan and Dallas. Write, whether it's a short story or a technical paper, or some prose. I've been writing since I was a young teen. I also enjoy a good, hard run. It is the sole thing that fully clears my mind. I'm a gypsy at heart so love to travel. Even those half-day jaunts to new scenery like the ocean or the city satiate my need to recharge. Being outside in nature also fuels me. And, of course, reading. Crime novels and scientific journals are the way to go! Regardless of the limited spare time I get some days, I always take a few moments and head outside to be still. It's the small things...

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