Katharine Spencer ’08

JOB TITLE: Chemistry teacher
ORGANIZATION: Boston College High School
LOCATION: Boston, Massachusetts
GRADUATE DEGREE: M.S. in teaching/secondary education in chemistry   

What was your first position after college? Immediately after college, I enrolled in Boston College’s chemistry Ph.D. program. However, after one year I transferred to the Boston College Lynch School of Education.

Has a liberal arts education helped you in shaping your career? A liberal arts education at Trinity allowed me to experience professors in the classroom and gave me teaching responsibilities. Both of these experiences are rare at larger universities where classes are primarily taught by teacher assistants. Looking back, these two experiences were the ones that started me on the path to education. The classes that I got the most out of were taught by professors whose love of their subject was clear through their approach to teaching. Coupled with my experience tutoring and being a TA in the Chemistry Department, I developed my own teaching style during my time at Trinity.

What aspects of your Trinity experience have been important to advancing your career or graduate school experience? My connections with faculty and other young alumni put me on the path to a Ph.D. in chemistry, and it was an experience I am glad to have had despite switching programs. The enthusiasm and support from my department was the big reason I chose to continue on to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry and later teaching.

What advice would you give to Trinity students to prepare for a position in your field? I would tell Trinity students interested in teaching to focus on the subject they are passionate about and intend to teach. Good teaching relies on an underlying passion for your subject, so take advantage of all of the courses that Trinity has to offer in your field, especially ones that get you to think outside the box.

What is the biggest misconception about your field? The biggest misconception about teaching is that it is an easy job with a lot of vacation time! Being an educator is an exhausting, rewarding career, and it requires a significant amount of planning and preparation to execute good lessons. Add on grading assignments and other school responsibilities, and you quickly wish there were more hours in the day. During vacations, many teachers are advancing their own careers through professional development or catching up on the current happenings in their particular field of study. I use that time to review and revise curriculum or to attend workshops I simply don’t have time for during the academic year.