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Featured Teacher: Anthony Palombella

Anthony Palombella. Credit: Mark Palombella

Anthony Palombella has taught every biology course at Cosby High School in Midlothian, Virginia. These include Health Science Exploration, Human Anatomy and Physiology, AP Biology, Parasitology, Biochemistry of Food, Genetics, and Cell Biology. Next year, he’ll teach dual-enrollment Biology 101/102, allowing students to receive both high school and college credit.

What do you do to remain current and bring the latest science into the classroom?

I look at what science is in the mainstream news and in the news section of online journals, and then follow up by reading journal articles and review articles when I have the time. For example, I spent a lot of last summer teaching myself about making CAR T-cells.

Do you have a science demo that students find particularly compelling?

It’s more than a demo, but at the beginning of the year I show my students a sleight of hand magic trick. They can’t do it unless I explain it just right. They love learning something they can show their friends and family, something that seemed impossible to them moments ago. At the same time, it shows how we have to work together: They have a responsibility to follow instructions closely, and I have a responsibility to provide complete instructions. It establishes a connection that lasts throughout the course.

Share a story from your past that led to your choosing your field of work.

As a doctoral student, I was a teaching assistant for a genetics course. I had a core group of about 20 students who met with me a couple of times a week. I loved watching them learn and grow over the semester, and I enjoyed teaching myself the material at a level that allowed me to answer (almost) all of their questions. I enjoyed being a TA more than I enjoyed my research at the time. Years later, as an assistant professor, my dean said to me, “If you enjoy teaching so much, why don’t you go teach high school?” So here I am.

What are you most proud of in your work?

I love it when students develop their ability to think critically about things, whether or not it has to do with my courses. They use their intelligence and logic to make decisions and form opinions.

Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.

I love to run outside. I like to identify the plants and animals I see or hear as I run. I struggle with bird calls, but I’m pretty good with frog calls. The chorus frogs and spring peepers just started calling here.