Barnes fostering stress-free classroom environment through passion for science


Kayla Nguyen

Coppell High School astronomy teacher Angela Barnes describes her eclectic bulletin board, filled with mementos and letters from her students, as her most prized possession. Barnes fosters a unique classroom environment that hones in on stress-free learning.

Divya Sivalenka, Staff Writer

While most high school classrooms are adorned with twinkling fairy lights, gigantic wall posters, and abstract photo collages, Coppell High School Honors Astronomy teacher, Angela Barnes, decorated hers with a live reptile.    

Barnes is in her 15th year of teaching at Coppell High School, having graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a biology degree and minor in chemistry in 2008.

Barnes didn’t realize her passion for teaching until much later in life. She had loved science since a young age, and loved biology during her high school years, but wasn’t able to choose it as her career path for various reasons.  

“It took me a long time to get through college, all I knew is that I wanted to study science,” Barnes said. “At that point, I fell in love with physical sciences rather than the life sciences, so that’s when my interest flipped. I am also an animal rights activist, so doing any kind of a job that involves handling animals or working with animals, I have some ethical reasons why I wouldn’t want to have those jobs. I just couldn’t do it.” 

It was not until her son was a freshman at Lewisville High School that she realized teaching high school students might be a good fit for her. 

“I really enjoyed the things he was telling me about school from his perspective, and I was like, ‘Maybe I can teach high school,’ which is crazy that I didn’t think about it until then,” Barnes said. “As soon as I decided on it, I did some observing at CHS school, and I left in tears. I was so happy. This is really what I’m meant to do. I found it. It’s been everything that I’ve wanted it to be.”

Barnes had observed as a student teacher for Jodie Deinhammer, Honors Anatomy and Physiology teacher, and absorbed a lot of her teaching skills. 

“We’re good friends,” Barnes said. “The way she teaches was the way I wanted to teach, so a lot of my teaching style comes from what I learned from her way back then.”

Coppell High School astronomy teacher Angela Barnes’ classroom is home to a friendly ball python named Monty. Barnes fosters a unique classroom environment that hones in on stress-free learning.
(Kayla Nguyen)

To Deinhammer, Barnes made a similar impression. 

“She was very excited about teaching and knew that’s what she wanted to do,” Deinhammer said. “She was very open minded to try new things and experiment with different methods of teaching. My favorite thing about her teaching style is that she’s always providing choices for her kids to have a variety of options, so not everybody’s doing the same thing all the time,” Deinhammer said. 

Barnes admits that she just wanted to be invisible during her high school years. She loved learning, but didn’t enjoy the environment of high school.

“I don’t think I really liked school,” Barnes said. “It was a big school like this, and I wasn’t super engaged with any clubs or activities. I had a couple friends, but was not a popular person. I just went to school and did what I had to do, but I didn’t enjoy it.”

Learning from her experiences, Barnes hopes to become a support system for her students and make sure that her students do not feel the same way she did in high school. 

“I want every one of my students when they come into this room to feel safe, feel loved, feel happy and enjoy what they’re doing,” Barnes said. “That’s what makes me a good teacher because I don’t want anyone to feel that way when they come into my room.”

Former Coppell ISD director of science Linda Cook describes Barnes’s teaching style as her greatest strengths as an educator. 

“It is not necessarily what she’s teaching, but how she wants students to learn,” Cook said. “She tries to center things around student learning instead of around herself as the teacher. She tries to get to know her students, and thinks about what is most important about what they are supposed to learn.” 

Cook further elaborates on how her character and sense of purpose drive her career as an educator everyday. 

“I would say the strongest aspect of her character as a teacher is that she has a really strong sense of purpose, and her purpose is making the world better and helping students be the best versions of themselves,” Cook said. “That pretty much drives the way that she teaches and what she does in her classroom.” 

To Barnes, the best part about being a teacher is the permanent relationships she gets to build with her students. She realized very quickly that her goal is not to get her students to like science, but to form a meaningful bond with them. 

“It didn’t take me a long time to realize, ‘Oh wait, it’s not even about getting them to love physics, but this is about connecting with them on a personal level and just learning from them as much as I’m teaching them’,” Barnes said. “The relationships I’ve built with students over the years have just been like everything. It means so much more than science.” 

CISD director of science Evan Whitfield illustrates that Barnes’s teaching is something to aspire for. 

“She is all about giving students the choice in how they want to learn and how they want to show what they learn,” Whitefield said. “She is all about making the environment safe, meaning the classroom itself, but also just the way students are allowed to interact with each other the way she interacts with the students. It’s all focused on comfort, safety, and freedom to express themselves but also their learning.”

Although Barnes started her journey at CHS as a physics teacher, she was responsible for building up the Earth Space Science (ESS) curriculum, which included the new elective course: Astronomy and Earth Science. 

“For several years, physics fell off of my schedule, and I just taught the two electives for a bit,” Barnes said. “Then, astronomy got big over the years, so now I’m strictly teaching astronomy, though that kind of changes from year to year, depending on the numbers of students interested in ESS and astronomy.”

A frequent practice of Coppell High School astronomy teacher Angela Barnes is meditation during her student’s independent work time. Barnes fosters a unique classroom environment that hones in on stress-free learning.
(Kayla Nguyen)

Additionally, Barnes has been following her personal wellness story for several years now, practicing yoga and meditation regularly.

 “Over the last seven or eight years, it started with me practicing yoga every day,” said Barnes. “It’s really cool and has made a huge impact on my level of happiness and patience. I feel so much lighter and happier since I started doing that.”

Now, she makes it a priority to share with her students, so they have time to take a break, during their demanding high school schedules. 

“It wasn’t anything that I shared with my students,” Barnes said. “It was something that I did and learned a lot from, but [COVID-19] lockdown threw me into a huge funk, and they were just kids on the screen.”

Barnes got certified to be a social emotional learning facilitator and a yoga instructor to incorporate into her classes after distance learning in 2022. 

“When we moved from the 50-minute class period to the 90-minute block schedule, I thought we needed a brain break in the middle of class or at the end,” Barnes said. “After COVID-19, it became a priority. It’s a priority so that they can take a break from their devices and from the stress and just breathe for a couple of minutes or get up and stretch.”

Barnes may have found her true passion late in life, but her dedication and love for teaching is evident in the way she interacts with her students. Her journey serves as an inspiration to anyone who is still trying to find their calling.

Follow Divya Sivalenka (@DivyaSivalenka) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter