Teacher Interview: Mrs. Aikens

Where are you from?

“I’m from Denver.”

What school did you go to?

“I went to Mullen High School, which is a school run by Christian brothers and it’s still around today. Then I went to the University of Georgia where I got a Master’s Degree as well.”

Are you married?

“Yes.”

Do you have any pets or kids?

“We have a sixteen-month-old puppy named Judah, and he’s kind of like a furry bird dog. It’s called a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. There are a few other dogs in our neighborhood that are the same breed, so he has like, a girlfriend that he plays around with. I also have a five-year-old daughter and a stepson who’s twenty two. He is in Syria right now because he works for the army.”

What do you like about Apex so far?

“I love the community involvement. It feels like just from the beginning of school to now, the parents and students have been really supportive. The staff have also been super helpful. Being happy and warm seems like almost a requirement to be here, if you’re not happy and warm, it will eventually rub off on you and you’ll become that way. It’s rare to see anyone who’s like, sullen, or shut down. That benefit every day is just awesome.”

What did you do before teaching?

“I worked in a Malaria Lab at the UGA Vet School, so we were studying how Malaria invades red blood cells. It was funded by the Bill Gates Foundation, so they were you know, putting a lot of money into these emergious and infectious diseases. Then when I moved back to Colorado, I took a teaching job where I taught high school biology for four years outside of  Denver. Then after I got married and we moved to North Carolina, I worked at Duke in the Cancer/Biology Department.”

What got you in to teaching?

“Working in a lab. In Georgia, I was in charge of the undergraduates. They were coming in brand new and they had never worked in a lab; they basically had high school science but nothing more than that. I absolutely loved working with them. Since I already had my Bachelor’s Degree, I asked if there was any way that I could apply for teaching without actually going back to school. They actually had a program like that for secondary science so I jumped right into that. It took a year and a half and I actually had to teach and work in a lab at the same time.”

What is the most rewarding part of being a teacher?
“It the relationships. You can really see people growing throughout the course of the year and it’s amazing sometimes what happens between the fall and spring. You kind of get to follow along for a piece of their life. There’s no better thing than that.”

What is your favorite memory from teaching?

“Right now, it’s probably one of the hiking trips we took. We took the kids out to Jefferson County State Park, where we got to go on this nature expedition over the course of the week. They got to collect a lot of this digital data and have these memories of what we’d done on the trip. Everybody had done something different, and I still stumble into those pictures sometimes when I’m in my google drive. I love how you can have the pictures to remind you of that week. Sometimes I wonder things like ‘what are those students doing now?’”

What were you like as a student?

“Very proper, very shy. I was afraid to ask questions and initially I had to have teachers that pushed and challenged everybody in the class to think well. There’s so much more to education than just being right and wrong. We need to have those conversations with students where it’s like, you have to own it, and you have to challenge yourself. You don’t want to be just filling in blanks and not learning or growing at all.”

What’s a piece of advice that you’d give to students?

“Probably along those same lines, that it’s okay to take a risk in the classroom and put out an idea that you’re not quite sure about. They should be willing to help others and go out of your comfort zone so you can grow. In high school you’re maturing as a person, so hopefully that transfers into what you bring into the classroom.”

What do your students think of you?

“I have no idea! According to some of the parents they had said, ‘Oh she’s nice,’ and that I was fun and interesting. But I was like come on guys, I’m not that nice, I do get onto you about stuff. I had to fight that image because I smile a lot. I have to use eye contact and bring out my teacher face sometimes. Depending on your persona and how you look, some people can take things too comfortably. You sometimes have to be like ‘look, get it right!’”

If you were not teaching, what would you be doing?

“I would say I might work in a kitchen, I love those farm to table kitchen places where it’s like you live in the same place you’re cooking for. I love fresh farm food. My mom grew up on a farm and she would always talk about peaches and cream that was fresh from the cow and she loved it. That would be like, my fantasy career. Or I would love to travel to different places like California, Washington, Virgina, and just go around like that. That would just be so much fun.”

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