Hanna Shohfi teaches biology at The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles, California. She also coordinates and teaches the Archer’s Girls RISE (Research in Science and Engineering) program, a high school scientific research curriculum that she developed through which students learn to design and implement original research in biology, chemistry, or engineering.
Question 1: Share a story from your past that led to your choosing your field of work.
In college, I took a natural history course where we went on weekly field trips to go bird watching and catch reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals. We learned how to make observations about our surroundings, ask questions, collect and analyze field data, and make conclusions. I was doing science for the first time and loved it, but I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t learned this sooner. Although I didn’t know that I would become a teacher at that time, this influential course made me think about how high school science classes should be taught to truly engage students.
Question 2: How did you ultimately decide on a career as a teacher?
My love for biology led me to grad school, but I was terrified of the teaching requirement. To my surprise, I loved interacting with students and breaking down complex topics into more digestible components. Once I discovered my love for teaching, I realized I could implement those changes I envisioned in college.
Question 3: In three words, what would your students say they learned from you?
“How to science.” I teach science as a process rather than a collection of facts, so hopefully they’re able to “science” any problem to find solutions.
Question 4: What are you most proud of in your work?
The science that my students do, and their love of the process.
Question 5: What topic do you find hardest for students? How do you teach it?
One the hardest things for students to deal with in their pursuit of science is failure. This inevitable part of the process can be very discouraging to students when they haven’t learned scientific resilience. I think that my students learn that resiliency through conducting their own research and problem solving on a regular basis. It’s also important that they aren’t assessed on getting results, but on how they manage the obstacles they encounter.
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