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Spotlight On: Amy Christie, RHS Biology Teacher

Ms. Christie originally hails from Buffalo and is a graduate of St. Lawrence University. Science, particularly biology, seems to run in her family, as two of her three brothers are scientists with biology degrees.

Amy Christie

An active childhood spent exploring the outdoors helped spark her interest in biology. After college Ms. Christie joined the Peace Corps and taught in Ghana. Upon her return, a job in the education department at the Buffalo Zoo convinced her that teaching was what she wanted to do, and she went on to get her masters in science education at SUNY Buffalo.

After three more years teaching abroad, this time in Ecuador, she came to the Hudson Valley with her husband, who was attending graduate school at SUNY New Paltz. Ms. Christie ultimately landed in Rhinebeck, where she and her family have been for the past 15 years.

When she isn’t instilling a love for science in her students, Ms. Christie likes to travel and also enjoys reading and exercising. She is also an avid fan of Scrabble. “Biology” is a 63-point word, after all!

Ms. Christie recently played a big part in the enormously successful and exciting demonstration of the da Vinci surgery robot for RHS students at Northern Dutchess Hospital.

The da Vinci robot has four remotely controlled arms that surgeons use to perform minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery more precisely and with more flexibility than they could with their hands. A big proponent of labs and hands-on learning, Ms. Christie was excited about the da Vinci demo because it allowed the students to actually use the robot – they were able to perform surgery on bananas!

The event exceeded Ms. Christie’s expectations: students said it was “the best field trip” they had ever been a part of and she was amazed at how positively the students reacted to it.

Ms. Christie is of course looking to capitalize on this success, and plans are already in the works for a second trip. Ms. Christie says that while the first trip was attended predominantly by AP science students and the students enrolled in RHS’ robotics class, she is interested in perhaps taking a group of students who have less of a science background or demonstrated interest in the sciences. Her hope is that the fabulous da Vinci robot will encourage some latent scientists!

The da Vinci field trip is just one of many direct learning experiences that Ms. Christie has been involved in over the years. A member of the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers, an organization created almost 30 years ago to support high school biology teachers with labs and workshops, Ms. Christie regularly exposes her students to cutting edge research and technology and learning-by-doing activities. In addition to the field trips Ms. Christie has developed for her AP Biology class, she also takes advantage of the Institute’s summer program in Ithaca which provides professional development opportunities that keep her up to date on developments in science and science teaching.

For the future, Ms. Christie’s goal can be summed up as “More!” More labs, more hands-on learning, and more of students gaining experience doing real science by designing their own experiments and using the scientific method themselves. Practical experience and experimentation not only better involve and engage students, they also foster critical thinking and analytical skills.