Rachelle Pannullo - 8th Grade Science - SC

My name is Rachelle Pannullo, and I have been teaching 8th-grade science for five years, but I never intended to teach middle school or even teach at all. I was part of a generation that experienced the “CSI Effect,” and I fully expected to go to college and become a Crime Lab Technician. I even applied and got accepted to the University of New Haven but ended up going to SUNY Albany for a Biology degree. 

Before I even started classes there, I had a work-study job at the Disability Resource Center. By the start of the next school year, they had promoted me from work-study to student assistant, and I started interacting with a lot of our students as more of a peer mentor. I still loved science and did a short stint as a lab assistant on a state-wide entomology study, but I realized I didn’t want to do lab work. I started looking into other careers that involved biology-- specifically genetics and found Genetic Engineering. I liked that it still had a fair amount of science, but I would be speaking to people about it, not just sending emails about lab reports. 

When finding out that the Genetic Engineering program wasn’t for me, I started to think about the parts of the field I liked to see if there was another career path. I figured out that I liked the teaching element of the profession. Taking a lot of technical genetic facts, making it more accessible to others, and being able to answer questions. That’s when I looked into teaching programs. I got accepted into a few and went to SUNY Stony Brook. After graduation, I was hired at a Charter School in Georgia and taught 6th grade for a few months. Then the following year, they moved me up to 8th grade. And now, even though I have moved to a different school and even a different state, I still accidentally ended up back in 8th-grade science after being initially hired for 7th-grade. 

Although it isn’t the career I expected to have and not even the type of science I thought I would teach, I enjoy many of the challenges. I mainly teach Physics and Geology, two of the science subjects I never really focused on in school. I like these subjects, though, because I enjoy learning new things and being able to share them with my students. Because I am sometimes learning along with them, it can be fun to discuss what we’ve learned and find ways to make the information make more sense. For example, before I taught in Georgia, I had never learned anything about energy waves. I knew about sound waves but not the science behind them, so it has been great to find ways to make such an abstract concept easier to learn-- not just for myself but also for my students. 

There are definitely things that are not ideal in the teaching profession, but I try to focus on what I do enjoy. I like that I get to learn something new. I like that I get to work with people every day. I like that each day and every class is just a little bit different. I like that I can find creative ways to solve problems. These are the things that keep me going back into my classroom. It was a weird path to teaching, but my past experiences gave me a lot of ‘tools in my teacher toolbox,’ as we like to all say.

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