CHS9 October teacher spotlight making transition into high school sciences more engaging


Sruthi Lingam

CHS9 biology teacher Hannah Dooley explains the “creating a baby alien” assignment to freshman Joaquin Cedillo where students flip a coin to determine whether their alien receives a dominant or recessive trait in J116 on Thursday. Dooley was named the October 2021 Teacher of the Month for her passion to make learning engaging for her students.

Yaamini Jois, Staff Writer

CHS9 biology teacher Hannah Dooley assists freshman Ashia Agarwal with her introduction to genetics assignment in J116 on Thursday. Dooley was named the October Teacher of the Month for her passion to make learning engaging for her students. (Sruthi Lingam)

After a year of prior teaching experience as a STEM teacher at UME Preparatory Academy in Dallas, CHS9 biology teacher Hannah Dooley is finding new ways to make the first year of high school science more engaging for her students and has been recognized as the October teacher spotlight. After working at Southwest Airlines as a customer relations representative, Dooley decided to go back into teaching biology to focus on her interests.

What is your biggest motivation?

Seeing students being successful brings me so much joy and it’s so exciting when students understand really complicated concepts and processes. Biology is brand new for my students and can be challenging at times, so seeing students understand challenging concepts motivates me to keep going and try even harder.

What are your goals as a teacher?

I would love to help create and build more activities that help students get excited about their biology class. My classes get so bogged down with taking notes and learning the vocabulary, but I think there are a lot more engaging ways for learning to happen. I want my students to be able to engage better with the content so they enjoy it more.

What inspired you to pursue biology?

I got a bachelor’s degree in biology from Dallas Baptist University in 2016. I originally went into college with a plan to finish medical school, but that proved to not be my passion. I also tried business and got a Master of Business Administration from Dallas Baptist University in 2018, but I just didn’t feel fulfilled. Teaching has always been what I’ve been interested in, and I’m glad I decided to pursue because I have never looked back since.

What is your teaching style and who influenced you?

I would describe my style as more relaxed. I want my classes to be more focused on my students. I really want all of my students to feel like they have a personal space in their learning, so hopefully, they can interact more with the content they learn in class. I want my students to lead the direction of how they interact with the content. If they ask a question, I hope they can explore how their question is impacted by what we’re currently learning. What molded my own style is my own [AP Physics teacher Mr. Atman’s style] in Martin High School in Arlington, where I was a student. We had a very relaxed classroom environment and we always got to explore what we were learning about [and] relate  it back to what we were currently learning. It made me feel like I had more of a personal connection to what I was learning because I could make real-world applications with my learning. He really inspired me to pursue teaching and make my students feel the same confidence.

What do you hope your students take away from your class?

It really is a brand new playing field for them, so it’s a real challenge at first. Whenever students realize that they can understand challenging things, it helps build confidence. Slowly breaking down these tough concepts until students understand the whole picture helps them feel more assured of their own abilities. This confidence is so important as they move on to tougher subjects and skills outside of biology. 

What are some new things you have learned as a teacher this year?

I am a major perfectionist and want everything to always go according to my plans, but this year, I’ve learned that things rarely go as you’ve planned them. Being able to think quickly if a student doesn’t understand a concept so that I can reteach it to them in a new way is really important as well. Sometimes, a fire drill happens during a test that I haven’t accommodated for, so I’ve learned to rethink the plan for the day. 

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