WILMINGTON — Katie Chambers is in her first year teaching at St. Elizabeth School, and in that short time, with students not even in class every day, she has made an impression on them. Chambers, a science teacher, said the fact that a student nominated her for The Dialog’s “Teacher Feature” means a lot.
“It’s been a heck of a time figuring out the curriculum on top of COVID,” she said. “It means a lot to know that while I’m figuring out everything on my end that I’m able to help students feel comfortable and secure and enjoy their time in class.”
She grew up in Wilmington and attended Ursuline Academy through sixth grade, then went to H.B. duPont Middle School and A.I. duPont High School before continuing at the University of Delaware. She was a camp counselor when she was younger and enjoys working with people, which is one of the reasons she was drawn to teaching.
She also had a teacher in high school, Tom Hogan, whom she admired a great deal. Hogan was fighting cancer, and Chambers initially went to school intending to go into the medical field.
“I made the promise to him in high school that I was going to cure cancer so he didn’t have to worry about it. So, I went through school and started my mechanical engineering classes and my medical engineering classes, then I realized that it kind of wasn’t my thing.”
After some soul-searching, she decided she wanted to teach like Hogan, who died in 2017.
“Teaching, I feel, was kind of a natural fit. Which made a lot of sense because I love working with people and hearing their stories, and getting to help people,” she said.
Chambers wanted to stay local, and a friend mentioned last year that St. Elizabeth had a job opening. She loved the environment, the technology and the close-knit feeling in the community.
Her first year has involved a lot of content creation and lesson planning, but being able to work with students and interact with fellow faculty members has been a blessing, she said. She isn’t too much older than her students — she teaches mostly sophomores — which, she believes, helps her relate to what they are going through.
Chambers, 24, teaches chemistry to the sophomores, and she also has juniors and seniors as part of her environmental and forensic science classes. She has liked science her entire life. Her father and an uncle both have doctorates in chemistry. At A.I. duPont, she was involved in robotics and the Science Olympiad, and she recalled an experience in high school that also influenced her.
“I had a science teacher who — it sounds really silly — for Halloween he did a science Halloween show to kind of show what the world can do with the way physics and chemistry work. It absolutely blew my mind,” she said.
She remembers once using acetone to dissolve a Styrofoam witch.
“It’s cool to get an inside glance at how the universe works,” she said.
Growing up, she was a big fan of the television show “Mythbusters,” which put popular theories to the test in real-life situations. She’s never seen “Breaking Bad,” however, which told the story of a high school chemistry teacher who used his knowledge to become an infamous methamphetamine manufacturer and drug kingpin.
“I’m several shows behind,” she said.
She is enjoying her time at St. Elizabeth. Long-term, she says, she’d like to do some informal education, “kind of what Bill Nye did. At the same time, I love it here. That’s much later down the line.”
She did not arrive at St. Elizabeth by herself. One of the things she has brought to the school is her pet axolotl, Squirt. Axolotls are salamanders also known as the “walking fish,” although they are amphibians, not fish. One of the reasons she acquired the pet is that they are sensitive to changes in water. That knowledge will help her students.
“It’s really important for my environmental science students to get that if you don’t take care of the environment, you lose the cool guys like this. As a class pet, he’s also just really fun,” she said.