From Stanford to Teaching Students

Rocklin High School science teacher Ms. Isenhower discusses how her experiences as a high school student shapes the way she teaches today.

TAYLOR AUBRY

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Mrs. Isenhower as a senior in high school

Rocklin High School AP Chemistry and biology teacher Shannon Isenhower was a very self motivated student, much like a lot of students here on campus. She was involved in band, student government, took AP classes, and volunteered at the local middle schools for counselling. She attended 2 different high schools, Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Ga., and Acalanes High School in Lafayette, Calif.

“I’ve always liked science. What was interesting was that before high school, I liked writing a lot and I still do. At one point I said I was going to be an author, and I also said I was going to be a teacher, and look what happened. When I took my freshman biology class was when I really fell in love with science. It was the first time I thought, ‘Oh, this is what I want to do with my life’. I also wanted to be a vet for a long time, but that didn’t happen.” Gravitating towards math and science as a student helped Isenhower to find her career today as a teacher.

“In AP Chemistry, I like that everyone comes in and is excited about whatever it is that we are doing. I don’t want people suddenly worrying that they’re not getting a good grade in the class, I want them to focus on learning.”

As time has gone by, high schools have evolved as trends have come and gone. When asked about how her high schools differed from Rocklin High School, she said, “I don’t know if it’s my school or the decade I went to school because I went to school in the 90s, which was a very cynical time period, and we had no school spirit at all. I love the school spirit at Rocklin, it actually makes me happy, but it is 100% nothing like my high school. Our football team was also terrible.”

Having two parents that were Stanford alums did have some influence on her college considerations. “My parents went to Stanford, and growing up we always went to football games and watched the Stanford band. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them before, but they’re really irreverent, and they just look like they’re having a really good time. They’re not a traditional marching band. I just knew that I wanted to be part of that group of people because they looked like they were having such a good time. So for me, my goal was to go to Stanford and be in the band.”

Isenhower believes young kids don’t appreciate her sarcasm enough, so she has found her sweet spot among high school students, “I really enjoy teaching the higher level stuff. I totally love teaching biology and chemistry, I’ve been teaching them for years and I will continue to do so, but honestly, teaching the higher level stuff is really enjoyable. I’m having so much fun teaching AP Chemistry because the more advanced concepts are just more fun. Teaching at a lower level, I think I would just get bored teaching the basics a lot of the time.”

Ms. Isenhower despised busy work when she was in school, so she integrates this into her teaching style by only providing her students with meaningful practice. “I try to let people work however much they want to. I make things optional for students. I used to hate it when teachers would give like 20 practice problems and they were all the same. I understand now that some people appreciate the practice, but to me that’s a way of torturing some students. I try not to be the sort of teacher that I hated.”

Above all, Isenhower hopes students will walk out of her class having learned something. Rather than just constantly feeling worried about a grade, “I just really want people to want to learn things in my class. . . In my perfect world, I wouldn’t have to grade anyone ever, we would just do fun things all day. In AP Chemistry, I like that everyone comes in and is excited about whatever it is that we are doing. I don’t want people suddenly worrying that they’re not getting a good grade in the class, I want them to focus on learning. I wish I could give everyone an A.”