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Soo joins WA’s family

John Vassiliou, Staff Writer

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Mark Soo is a new science teacher in WA this year with a lot to say about the school and his experiences here so far…

Q: Are the more athletic students in your class more proficient with the material?

A: I think that one of the great things about being a student and an athlete is that you sort of have that level of discipline and I think that that does translate [well] in some cases. There are some people who’d rather be doing something else which is completely fair. But I really appreciate the students who have that level of you know “I’m here to do a job I’ve got a purpose, something I need to do” and I think that that does in many cases translate really well in the classroom.

Q: Do you think that the class rooms have everything they need for the lessons?

A: Yeah absolutely. I was really struck when I came here by just the sheer amount of “stuff” that’s lying around the classrooms and I think that’s great from a science teacher’s perspective. Because we always want to make sure that we have your lab supplies, things for demonstrations, interesting things just sitting around that you can take a look at. One of the first things I did with my bio classes this year was I had them stand up and look around the classroom and tell me what they thought we’d be doing with some of this stuff. So they looked at the posters, they looked at the lab supplies, they found there’s a mannequin with clothes on lying on the cabinets for one of the forensics classes, which we won’t be using, but it’s the sort of thing that sort of attracts people’s attention and anything that makes people interested in the class is a good thing.

Q: If you could add one thing to the classroom to make it better what would you add?

A: I haven’t come across anything so far, I’d love like a set of bones or something in this classroom that I could stick around in different places I know that there are other teachers that have like a moose skull and moose antlers. I imagine it’s a teacher thing- you see something interesting and you collect it you know? So carcasses things like that, not, not something that’s going to like smell and stink but like the bones so you’ve got an example to go to when you talk about “oh here’s the skeletal system” so something like that I think is really cool.

Q: How long have you been teaching?

A: This is my first year teaching as a full time high school teacher. I was a student teacher in the fall. I’ve got other teaching experience in other contexts, so I’ve taught the BC marching band for the last three years this is my fourth year doing that. I was a teaching assistant in college level classes while I was at Boston College as a student. I tutored for the past year in organic chemistry, cell biology at the college level, so I’ve got a fair amount of teaching experience, but this is my first time teaching as a full time high school teacher.

Q: Where did you go for college and what did you study?  

A: I got two degrees from Boston College, I have a bachelors in science and biology, I did my undergrad— just straight biology, with a focus on molecular and cellular bio so that’s my background, and then after doing a few years of research I went back and I got a masters in science teaching.

Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching?  

A: I like getting asked questions, If somebody asks me a good question I get a chill, and I find that really satisfying. So yeah, that’s probably my favorite thing. Having someone ask a good question that goes beyond just the stuff that goes on in class, I really like that.

Q: What is your favorite thing about WA so far?  

A: I think both the students and the other teachers here are fantastic, I’ve had nothing but good  experiences starting from when I interviewed here all the way through to right now, I think the students are great people they are well prepared, they’re intelligent, they work hard—The teachers too are just wonderful, welcoming people and they’re extremely helpful which is such a good thing when you’re a first year teacher because you don’t want to feel like you can’t talk to somebody if they need help. But that’s never been the case here, every time I’ve had a question there’s always, not just one, but three or four people in the department office who give me feedback and I really appreciate that.

Q: What made you choose biology?

A: I always was interested in two big questions when I was in school, Why are we what we are, and how did we get here? Both from how did we get here as a human species and also in terms of how society develops. Now that’s like a big question, but I come at that in two ways. One is that I really like history, because it’s the study of why our society is the way it is. And I like biology because I like thinking about what are the things that cause us to be able to live and survive and do these interesting things that we do and also how did life sort of evolve over time to get to where we are? So I like those big thought type questions.

Q: What would you look for in a good student?

A: I would think about two things first and foremost. One is asking really good questions. Somebody who asks good questions means that they’re thinking about what they don’t know and so if you’re asking questions about things that are sort of stretching you a little bit that’s how you learn. We don’t learn by going through the stuff we already know over and over and over and over, we learn by trying to make connections to things that we don’t understand already. And I’ve had a couple of really great questions in my classes already, somebody asked “What’s an example of an autotroph that doesn’t use photosynthesis” There are examples but it’s an AP Bio college kind of question but that’s the kind of thing where I saw somebody try and stretch and say what’s out there that I don’t know yet? And a second thing that I think is really important in terms of being a good student is just making sure that you’re always thinking back and reflecting and thinking about what do I not know? What do I know well? What can I do better to learn this material?

Q: What made you choose WA?

A: I had just amazing experiences interviewing here. I’ve been on a few job interviews in my life so far, but WA was the only one where I actually enjoyed the process all the way through. In my first round I loved talking to Dean Ware who was in on that interview and other members of the science department were great, when I did my demo lesson for [Ms. Albu’s] class it was an amazing experience, they were so well behaved in the lesson I thought that that was awesome. The school itself is beautiful and sort of feels like home a little bit. I’m from Acton Mass, I’m just a town over, I went to Acton-Boxborough and just walking around the high school—that kind of feel.

Q: Was teaching your primary career choice?

A: Teaching was always my top choice I originally had planned on doing research getting my phd, going into teaching on the college level, I basically decided that the amount of research that I’d have to do to get there was more than I wanted to do. My first choice was always the teaching not the research so I decided to sort of cut out that middle section of having to do the research first and go right to teaching.

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Soo joins WA’s family