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Fallon Middle School’s Monica Dennis on Teaching Science

March 29, 2011

Monica Dennis

Fallon Middle School science teacher Monica Dennis earned her undergraduate degree at CSU East Bay and post graduate degree at Mills College in Oakland. Monica attended on a scholarship created to help promote more minorities in science classrooms. Monica completed her student teaching in Piedmont and at San Lorenzo High School. Monica’s first job was in an elementary science classroom and after a few months she realized how much she missed teaching older children, and started looking for a job closer to home, which brought her to Dublin over 10 years ago where she started at Wells Middle School before joining Fallon.

After school Monica helps run the Chevron Science Explorers Club and in the summer runs a Biotech Summer Academy at Cal State East Bay in Concord for high school students.  What is your favorite thing about teaching science?

Monica Dennis: “I love have so many local resources to learn and teach science. Without the support of Chevron and BioRad I don’t think our valley science programs would be as strong.”  How do you spend your time when you aren’t teaching?

Dennis: “I’m always working through out the school year so the only time when I’m not teaching is a month in the summer. That’s when I take my family (I’m 3 generations) to Disneyland or go to the Sierra’s.”  Do you have any pets or hobbies?

Dennis: “I’ve always had a cat for a pet, before I came to Fallon I had an iguana, tortoise, a guinea pig, and a tank of fish. Wells was big on pets at that time.”  How do you make the concepts of science real to middle school students?

Dennis: “I like to have my students use more than the book to learn. The reality is one book cannot hold all the information for such a vast subject. Many students don’t get the opportunity to have a training science teacher or the chance to do experiments, so I have always brought that to my teaching in hopes of reaching more students. I’d like to see more connections made with local science companies but sometimes they don’t let students younger than 16 into the buildings where the work is done.”  How do you help girls maintain an interest of science into high school?

Dennis: “This was my thesis project for my masters. It’s very interesting that girls that do well in science don’t pursue science in college. Most research shows that giving girls more opportunities to practice science will retain their interest in the topic. Maybe this will all change in the generation of young women that I have taught over the past 11 years.”  Any advice for parents about homework or this school year?

Dennis: “Attend school events or check up on your child’s school online. It’s frustrating not knowing what is going on with your child’s progress, but if a teacher has a website or online grading this helps to start a conversation with your child’s teacher. I love it when parents drop a quick email once or twice a year. It doesn’t have to be just when their son or daughter isn’t feeling good about a grade, it could be reaching out to see if the teacher needs help or supplies in the middle of the year.

“My advice to kids is get used to stopping by your teacher’s classroom at lunch or after school. Knowing your teacher outside of lectures or class will help them remember you when it’s time to complete a student evaluation. I wish I had learned this sooner.”


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