Our Inspired Teachers: Carol Ponganis

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Every day Catlin Gabel teachers inspire their students. 16 faculty members talk about how they came to teaching—and what they love about their craft

From the Autumn 2012 Caller

Carol Ponganis, 6th grade math

Bachelor's in biology, University of California, Santa Cruz. Master's in education, Portland State University. At CGS since 1988.

The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau was in full swing when I was a middle schooler, and it inspired me to want to become a marine biologist. As a senior in high school I did an internship with the Sacramento Science Center, which offered a marine biology outdoor school program on the Mendocino coast for 6th graders. I set up a marine biology research project at the coast, which I monitored while the staff taught the outdoor school. I shadowed the director one day as he introduced the students to various aspects of coastal ecology. He was an amazing model of how to present information in an engaging, interactive style. The Science Center needed another teacher to fill in, and they asked me if I could do this on the side while my research project was running. I got hooked on teaching and ditched my research project. I loved marine biology. But I discovered that when you are able to share your passion with someone else, it makes it twice as good. I knew then that I wanted to become a science teacher. And I know that my teaching style today was directly influenced by the methods I observed from the director of the outdoor program.
A veteran teacher once told me that the ideal job was one in which you could keep learning and trying new things. He said: “Do you want to teach for 30 years, or do you want to teach one year, 30 times?” Taking that advice, I have tried to switch my position every four to seven years. I have taught from 6th grade to 12th grade, from astronomy to oceanography to physical science to forensics, and now I am teaching math! The opportunity to be a lifelong learner has been one of the greatest benefits of being a teacher at Catlin Gabel.