Aaron Mathieu teaches Honors Biology, AP Biology, and Alternative Program Biology at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Acton, Massachusetts. He is the creator and host of a podcast about teaching the life sciences, Life of the School.
Did you always want to teach?
I started to seriously consider becoming a teacher when I was a junior in college. I was a biology major with a chemistry minor, but I took an education elective where I went into a high school and tutored students, particularly in math and science. I found the experience was challenging, interesting, and fun.
What do you do to remain current and bring the latest results into the classroom?
I use podcasts like the Science Podcast, Science Friday, This Week in Virology, and Meet the Microbiologist, just to name a few, to stay current with the latest findings. I also use Twitter and Facebook to see how my colleagues are using the latest research in their classrooms.
What topic do you find hardest for students? How do you teach it?
My biggest challenge is helping students see science as a verb. Most students come into my biology class thinking that science is a collection of facts rather than an active pursuit. This challenge in large part has shaped the way I teach. I make sure that students are actively asking questions, modeling concepts, designing investigations, and engaging in other science practices on a daily basis. I try to focus on having students actively make sense of concepts, rather than simply telling them the “facts” that will appear on an upcoming test.
How do you build strong connections with your students and their parents?
Building meaningful relationships starts by treating students with respect, compassion, humility, and a little bit of humor. I also try to present myself to both students and parents as an approachable person who welcomes questions and discussion. I’m sure this is something that I can get better at and I hope to continue to learn from my students how I can support them for the rest of my career.
If you could pick one scientist to come speak to your class, who would it be and why?
It is hard to pick just one, but I think Hope Jahren would be an amazing guest speaker. After reading Lab Girl, I think her passion for research, as well as her personal narrative, would be extremely engaging for my students (and me too).