Teacher of the Year: Mrs. Chambers


Art/Photo by Roger Ayad

Congratulations to Mrs. Chambers for winning Teacher of the Year.

   For some students, school becomes a place of boring and repetitive nature. Countless hours are dedicated to studying for the sake of a passing test score, prioritizing memorization over comprehension. Often lost in the structure of our education system is the essence of wonder. However, in Room 4222 is Biology Honors and Astrobiology teacher Mrs. Chambers, and her contagious curiosity. An inspiring love for science both in and out of the classroom has earned Mrs. Chambers the well-deserved title of Teacher of the Year.

   On campus, Mrs. Chambers is known for motivating students to ask questions as well as challenge the answers they’re given. Mrs. Chambers shared, “I try as much as I can to give my students the opportunity to think and behave like scientists — not just listen to what other scientists did.” To her, learning science is much more than “memorizing lists of formulas or putting dots on a graph” but rather, using these ideas as a tool for discovery and expansion of knowledge. 

   It’s an interactive, contextualized teaching style that encourages Mrs. Chambers’ students to fuel their own curiosity about the world around them. Nicole Choi (9), currently in Mrs. Chambers’ Biology Honors course, shared that “coming into this class, [she] wasn’t really interested in science . . . But through Mrs. Chambers’ captivating stories and her gentle, yet strict, teaching style, [she’s] been able to wonder more about unanswered scientific questions.” Restoring curiosity in her students is one of Mrs. Chambers’ happiest moments when teaching, and her students can agree it’s what she does best. It’s what makes Mrs. Chambers feel she’s succeeded as a teacher: “It’s not about grades on labs or test scores or anything else like that. It’s about seeing that I have passed on the understanding and the wonder.”

   After 20 years of teaching, Mrs. Chambers continues to learn alongside her students. “I have never taught the perfect lesson,” Mrs. Chambers expressed. “There are piles of lessons that I’ve taught this year, that all have scribbles and annotations all over them, because there’s always something new to be learned for me.” This effort is recognized by her students as well: Choi added, “She routinely wakes up at four in the morning to fix packets or tests to make our learning more interactive and impactful.”

   Mrs. Chambers’ commitment to changing and improving her work is undoubtedly tied to her love for science. She explained, “True science is about wondering things, but then finding the answers to your questions in an evidence-based and non-dogmatic way. You always have to be open to the idea that new evidence can be found that will alter what you think is the explanation for what you know already.” Mrs. Chambers is constantly on the lookout for new scientific discoveries, whether that leads her to rewriting lessons entirely, or just sharing news updates with her students before her lessons.

   Off campus, Mrs. Chambers’ scientific endeavors continue. Earlier this year, Mrs. Chambers embarked on a journey to Spain to join other teachers and researchers on the JOIDES Resolution, a “scientific drilling vessel that has traveled all over the world for 38 years, drilling core samples to understand the depths and the history of our planet,” according to Mrs. Chambers. Here, her job was to take her research and learning from the ship and turn it into a lesson for the classroom. In “finding a way to tell those stories of one generation to the next generation,” Mrs. Chambers hopes that one day, her students will “be inspired to take those stories and go find new stories or add chapters to the stories.”

   Every summer, Mrs. Chambers also works in a lab at UC Berkeley to research the effects of climate change on insects such as ladybugs and crickets. From DNA extractions and dissections to behavioral experiments, Mrs. Chambers continues making scientific discoveries and learning even after the school year ends.

   Whether it’s at West High or beyond, Mrs. Chambers’ love for science and commitment to curiosity make her an inspiration to her students. But past that, Mrs. Chambers is not just a teacher, but a pillar of support. “I’ve always thought my most important job has nothing to do with teaching science, and everything to do with just being an adult,” she expressed. “Being honored with that trust and reliance to be there when [students] need it… That’s the most important thing.”