Lower School News 

Faculty in Focus: Kristen Pizarro, Middle School Science Teacher
Posted 08/27/2019 09:00AM

 

1. You earned an MA in neuroscience from Brown University and then went on to pursue an MA in Teaching. Was it always your intention to become an educator?

No, for much of my life I expected to work in scientific research as a career. I have always loved science, but I reached a point where I knew I did not want to spend my entire life working in a lab. It was important to me to remain connected to science, but I wanted an option that would allow me to spend more time with people than lab rats. I thought seriously about becoming a nurse. However, when I thought about how much I enjoyed tutoring and teaching lab skills to others, I knew that teaching science was the right path for me. 

 

2. Why middle school?

When I was an apprentice teacher, I taught in a high school first and then in a middle school. I enjoyed the high school classes, but when I got to the middle school, I realized that teaching middle school is much more fun. The level of excitement and enthusiasm of middle school students doing lab activities won me over. That kind of energy is contagious and inspiring. 

 

3. Where is your favorite place to backpack and why?

I don't have a single favorite place to backpack, but I have learned that my favorite places are cold, dramatic mountains with forests and glaciers. In South America, some of the most impressive places that I have backpacked are Isla Navarino, south of Ushuaia, Argentina, and along the icefield close to El Chalten, Argentina. The scale of the natural world is so large and powerful in those places, that it makes me feel small in the best way.

 

4. What is your most exciting wilderness travel story?

That is really difficult to say. I think exciting wilderness stories usually mean that something did not go according to plan in a significant way. While I enjoy having trips that are beautiful and challenging, I try to plan so that trips do not become epic stories. That said, there are always exciting moments. For example, when you have to cross steep snowfields or pick the right spot for fording a river in high water. The intensity of those moments definitely adds to the overall wilderness experience.

 

5. As an undergraduate at Duke, you conducted an independent study at the Medical Center's Department of Psychiatry. What did you learn?

While the research projects that I was involved in related to the impact of pharmaceuticals and various chemicals on memory, I think the more interesting lessons came from the day-to-day experiences in the lab. It was a lot of responsibility caring for lab animals and I had to train them to push levers for food and navigate mazes. I learned why you should never wear sandals when working with lab animals. Once a lab technician had to resuscitate one of my animals when it had a bad reaction to medication, and I had to learn how to recognize and avoid those situations.

 

6. Who was your favorite teacher? Why?

My favorite teacher was one of my high school English teachers. I actually wasn't sure how I felt about her for the first couple of months because she always gave copious amounts of stern feedback on our writing. Seeing whole paragraphs of my writing crossed out or covered in critical commentary was difficult to swallow at first. However, when I tried applying her feedback, I could tell she was right, and my writing became clearer and more expressive. Her class always demanded hard work, but as I continued, I could tell that my writing was undergoing a dramatic evolution.  She was wonderful in many other ways: pushing our analytical thinking, bursting into song in the middle of class, and frequently telling us to "question reality." But the greatest thing she did was push me to be a more concise, more intentional writer. Despite the labor, in the end, I feel as though I received a gift.

 

7. What kinds of things do you like to cook? 

Most of the food I cook is fairly simple: vegetarian fare such as soups, casseroles, and pasta. But I also enjoy longer cooking projects and trying to make new types of food. Since I've lived in São Paulo, I've experimented with making a lot of foods "from scratch" such as yogurt, kimchi, different types of bread, and tortillas. There is a lot of science involved in cooking, so I like to research, experiment, and see what happens.

 

8. Which movies have you watched over and over again?

I rarely watch movies multiple times. I am much more of a reader than a movie-watcher. Even with books, it is rare for me to reread them because I like novelty and new ideas and information. The exception to this in both books and movies is if they are about human endurance or adventure. For example, I've read Endure by Alex Hutchinson twice and I am utterly fascinated by it.

 

9. You like running, swimming, and indoor rock climbing. What is one piece of advice about lifelong fitness and health you'd give Graded parents, students, and coworkers? 

I think it is important not to make gigantic fitness goals, but to try to find a sustainable level of exercise that does not feel like an obstacle when you are tired or stressed. I try to do something active most days of the week. If I'm really busy, it might just be a walk or some stretching, but it takes a lot of pressure off if I'm not up for a long run on any given day. I also think it is important to have exercise that is fun whenever possible. Running with other people is more entertaining than running alone and rock climbing is kind of the grown-up version of all the tree climbing I did as a kid.  

 

10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?

Graded is my first experience teaching in a school where I have worked with some of the same students over multiple years and in different contexts outside of the classroom. Between this and the warmth and friendliness of so many people here, it creates a very tangible feeling of being part of a community. I value the fact that families at the school are so willing to get involved with activities on campus.

Av. José Galante, 425
São Paulo, SP - Brazil - 05642-000
T: 55-11-3747-4800
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