Allison Kelly Staff Writer
As sad of a time as it was for all of us to say goodbye to Ms. Echols, a very exciting time for the SLA community soon followed as we welcomed a new science teacher to our family to take her place. Ms. McCullough became apart of the science department halfway through the 2015-2016 school year, which is not easy, but she has seemed to adjust quickly and successfully. So, how well do we all really know the new member of the family? Teaching at a charter school in South Philly and then transitioning to SLA is a big jump, let’s see how she got here.
First, I was interested in knowing what sparked a love for teaching in Ms. McCullough and her journey to becoming a teacher is actually a very interesting one. “This is a great question. So I actually started out in nursing school. I went to the University of Pittsburgh and was in their nursing school for two years. I really loved learning about the body and all the different diseases, but when it came to clinical and dealing with all of the bodily fluids involved, I was a little bit too squeamish. A lot of my good friends are still nurses and I respect anyone who is a nurse very much. It’s a very difficult profession but it just wasn’t right for me. I decided since I really liked learning about the human body and science that I was going to teach about the human body. So, by deciding nursing school wasn’t for me I ended up pursuing a teaching career.”
Charter schools in South Philly are extremely different than the SLA community so I was interested in knowing what stood out about our school to her that made her choose us. “Well, SLA is a great school and I actually got to come to an Educon session 2 or 3 years ago and I was very impressed with the school and the idea of project based learning. A lot of schools don’t have that aspect and it’s a very different environment from a lot of other schools. So, when I heard a position was opening up I decided that I definitely needed to go in for an interview because it’s a great place to be and there are a lot of opportunities that a lot of other schools don’t have for both the students and the teachers. It’s a really cool place to work.”
After finding out how she came to be here, I was interested in her experience at the school so far. I wanted to know how she was liking her decision to work here and also how it has been different from what she was doing before. “The staff has been very welcoming as well as the students. It has made the transition very pleasant because it is very difficult coming mid year, especially for the students to have a teacher switch half way through the year. But, I would say everyone has been very welcoming and has made it a very pleasant transition. At my old school, and I would imagine a lot of the other schools, we were very assessment based and test based, tests every week and quizzes every so often. So, coming into a project based school is very different for me in the best way. Before there was a lot of conversation around test scores and designing tests versus here where it is all unit planning and designing projects that really explore content versus just what’s the best way to ask a question about the content. So, the biggest change is being able to open up and do a whole bunch of different projects that I wouldn’t have had time for at my old school because it was so strict. It has given me a lot more freedom as a teacher and I feel that I’m able to dive deeper and let student interest guide the learning versus before where it wasn’t very flexible for a teacher.”
I was very impressed with Ms. McCullough’s journey, and after spending some time interviewing her I am not surprised at all that she has transitioned to our school well. She seems to share the same passion we all do about how we are educated here versus how we would’ve been educated at a normal high school and I know she will be a very successful teacher at this school as well as a great impact on our community. Welcome, Ms. McCullough!