William & Mary
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Matthew Wester

Masters of Education (M.A. Ed.), class of 2010

Current Position: Science teacher at Franklin Military Leadership Academy, Richmond City Public Schools
Major: Biology
Certified in: Biology

Personal statement about teaching

I decided to teach students about biology because the science amazes me and I am positive I can help students share that excitement.  I do not think I can express my motivation and purpose for teaching any more succinctly, but that simple statement is so profound to me that, despite my fears of hardship or even failure, it inspires a desire to begin as soon as possible.

Matt Wester with some of the science teachers who took part in the HHMI-funded teacher update courseFirst, it is important to note that I do not use the word “amaze” lightly.  “Amazing” does not just mean “neat” or “interesting” or even “outstanding.”  I reserve this word to express a feeling of dumbfounding awe or the jolt of an epiphany that comes from the understanding of a concept that all of a sudden seems essential to my very existence.  This is how I feel about biology, a science that attempts to explain life, its history, and its community.  It even attempts to explain me – how I was formed, how I function, and how I think – and this is why I have decided to devote myself towards inspiring a shared love for the subject in students. I want students to understand that the study of biology itself is alive, constantly changing and challenging old ways of thinking. I see my role as a teacher in the students’ learning as that of a guide or conduit through which they can begin to understand the nature of the biological sciences, including its overarching principles, how these principles were developed over time, and how new discoveries are made in the field using these principles. This method of teaching will require that the role of the student is not a passive one.  Instead, it will rely on active thinking, problem solving, and questioning - both on my part and that of my students.

Teaching is one of the few career choices that is a truly selfless endeavor. You are forced to practice patience, forgivness, and dedication actively on an hourly basis, all while wearing a huge smile on your face, and with the right attitude this career can result in unimaginable personal growth. It is also one of the most personally rewarding career choices I can think of. While 'The Impossible' is constantly being asked of you as a teacher, you will also never find yourself surrounded by more people - students, parents, administration, and the community in general - desperately wishing for and celebrating your success. The longer I teach science, the more I find it impossible to imagine doing anything else with my professional life.