Kate Dircksen

     I developed a love for Biology as a young girl by spending most of my free time outdoors in the natural world. I had a strong passion for the Bio-medical Sciences in high school and was able to get a job as a receptionist at a minor emergency medical clinic where I worked my sophomore through senior years. Each time a patient presented with an interesting complaint or medical need, the physicians would come and ask me to shadow them during the consultation or minor surgery. I was fascinated and thought I would attend medical school or become a Physician’s Assistant. I declared Biology as my Major my first week in college.

      Partway through college I moved to Central and South America and traveled extensively across the continents to various national parks and bio-reserves with my family. During this journey, my interest in ecology and botany in particular, reminded me that I wanted, upon my return to college, to take courses in these subjects of plant physiology, ecology, and botany to enhance my General Biology degree and make it better-rounded. 

     My first few jobs out of college were for the U.S. Forest Service as a Biological Technician researching everything from threatened orchids to Bull trout to Grizzly habitat to Wildland Fire Ecology. During this time I knew that if I wanted to go further as a scientist I would need a graduate degree and I began a Master of Science in Resource Conservation in the School of Forestry at the University of Montana. I completed the required graduate coursework for this degree and carried-out trips to southern Chile to conduct field work for my thesis project. My thesis involved developing a computer model through Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing that would predict where an invasive shrub would grow in riparian areas in Patagonia. Throughout this project I was collaborating with Chilean government researchers and officials, university professors, and private landowners in Spanish, to obtain the data I needed. This proved to be a fairly isolating task and I began to realize that I truly wanted to pursue a more social career in education in my own country as opposed to pure and applied research in a foreign country.

   I began asking teacher friends of mine and others about their thoughts and feelings on being educators and learned that they absolutely loved their careers. I decided to pursue a Master in Education and started the following semester. Upon successful completion of the requirements for my teaching licensure, I was hired at Sentinel High School to teach Integrated Earth, Space, and Physical Science and Biology the upcoming school year. I taught those classes for three years and was then asked to teach a research class called Advanced Problems in Science (APS) which I have done for the last 4 years in addition to teaching Biology. In teaching the APS course, I’ve mentored over 40 students with individual, multi-year, cutting-edge scientific research projects. I accompanied these students on trips to participate in regional and national science symposia and competitions. Many of my former APS students have gone on to pursue college and graduate degrees in science.

     I chose to enter the teaching profession because I have always been an extremely compassionate person and love being around other people. I am also a life-long learner and enjoy exploring the world around me. My career change was prompted by the desire to share my enthusiasm and love of the natural world with students. People have always told me that I actually “light up” when speaking about biology or some other scientific topic and that my passion for it is contagious.

     Building relationships with people is the most important aspect of my life. By becoming a teacher I am able to do this with every student and every staff member because of my friendly and outgoing nature and humble attitude. I am a very good listener and people often seek me out when they need someone to talk to. I feel strongly that students need to be listened to and given opportunities to feel comfortable asking questions or seeking help. I reach out to all students and engage them in thoughtful conversation regarding the subjects they are learning and the things they are interested in. I believe this is integral to their ability to communicate later in life.

     Over the last 8 years, teaching has been a daily joy and I’ve been on a continual quest to improve on my abilities and the ‘art’ of the profession. I have developed a positive and mutually respectful rapport with the students and feel that I am in-tune with the challenges faced by today’s youth. I continually reflect on the way I interact with people and work hard to do a better job every day.

    I couldn't be happier to be starting my 2nd year here at Capital High School, teaching Biology and Advanced Scientific Research Methods. I love the positive energy and excitement that I observe every day I walk into the building! I look forward to a fantastic time of learning and teaching these wonderful students!