Teacher, Landmark High School, New York
Background: Shold works at Landmark High School, a small public school in Manhattan. He teaches a neuroscience course that is focused on having kids independently design, research, and carry out their own experiments. He also teaches French and bicycle repair.
Question 1: Why did you become a teacher? Did you always want to teach?
Answer: I did not always plan to become a teacher. After college I joined the Peace Corps and ended up teaching high school science in Burkina Faso, West Africa. It was a transformative experience.
Question 2: What do you do to remain current and bring the latest science into the classroom?
Answer: It is an exciting time to be teaching neuroscience. The literature is relatively accessible for high school students, and the content is inherently interesting. As a Math for America Master Teacher I have been able to take several mini courses from neuroscientists. Being in New York City has allowed my students and I to collaborate with and learn from neuroscientists at Columbia University and at Rockefeller University. Volunteers from Columbia University Neuroscience Outreach have even evaluated my students’ graduation projects. Of course, reading science and following social media also provide new updates almost daily.
Question 3: What fuels your passion for science and teaching?
Answer: Students and colleagues. The day-to-day of teaching can be a grind, but seeing the big picture when a former student drops by, or taking the time to get to know a student, are powerful motivators. In addition, working with and learning from colleagues at my own school and through teacher-led workshops and Professional Learning Teams at Math for America never fail to inspire.
Question 4: Do you have a science demo that students find particularly compelling? What makes it so interesting for them?
Answer: The “cockroach beatbox” based on a Ted Talk by Greg Gage from Backyard Brains. Students use an iPod to stimulate neurons in a cockroach leg to “dance” to the music. It is a perfect combination of gross, educational, and amazing.
Question 5: If you could pick one scientist to come speak to your class, who would it be and why?
Answer: I have already been lucky enough to take some of my students to hear Eric Kandel speak in the past. I would love to have Brenda Milner and Patient H.M. speak to my students. H.M.’s case is so central to the history of neuroscience, and students are fascinated by his tragic story.