Getting to know Science Instructor and alumna Elizabeth Timmons ’04, who is entering her ninth year of teaching at Fenwick.
Ms. Timmons spends a big chunk of her summer down in the Friars’ pool, coordinating swimming lessons for the Oak Park community.
What is your educational background?
I have a B.S. in Environmental Science with minors in Spanish and Anthropology from Santa Clara University. I also have a MAT degree in Chemistry from Dominican University.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
I completed several outdoor education internships that included working at a National Wildlife Refuge in CA, an outdoor education center in Northern Michigan (through the winter!) and the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation in Dundee, IL. I also subbed in the elementary schools in Forest Park and River Forest while I was getting my Master’s and teaching credentials.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
Sadly, it has been a while since I have read anything other than parenting articles online, but my goal is to finish Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming this summer. We will see how that goes with a one-year-old running around!
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
I like to spend time with my family and be outside as much as possible. I love to go to the Morton Arboretum or the zoo, especially with my one-year-old. I love to swim and play water polo, even though I know I’m not very fast these days.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
I was a member of the Varsity Swimming and Water Polo teams. I was also a member of NHS.
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
I am the moderator of the Environmental Club and I have been involved in the all of the Aquatics programs in various ways over the years.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
The quality that most stands out to me in our Fenwick students is their resourcefulness. Our students here are very ambitious and constantly looking to successfully meet objectives and expectations. They will find extra resources when they need them and are willing to put in the hard work required to excel in the classroom.
Fenwick students also look out for each other. The Fenwick Community is a place that is always welcoming, regardless of how long ago you were a student. The Fenwick Community is strong, and I have always felt that we pull together to celebrate the triumphs and work through the trials. The statement, “Once a Friar, Always a Friar” is definitely true.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
I like to say that I went into the family business, but I guess that’s not technically correct since we don’t own a school or anything. Both of my parents were teachers, so I got to see some incredible examples of what it means to be passionate about what you are doing every day while I was growing up. My dad [Hall of Famer the late Dave Perry] taught at Fenwick and my mom taught at Morton East for most of their careers. I started babysitting, teaching swim lessons and coaching at a young age, so I always wanted to teach in some form. As things worked out, I made my way back home and am now enjoying teaching at Fenwick.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
I have a desire to see those around me happy and successful. I work really hard to make my class a place where each student can experience successes that they can be proud of, even if they are not going to continue to study chemistry.
I am also a perfectionist, so I work really hard to foresee issues that might arise before they happen and try to do whatever I can to prevent those issues. This can definitely work against me, though, as I can get stressed when things don’t go according to my plan. Having a one-year-old is definitely helping me decrease my perfectionist ways and the stress I allow this to have in my life, because nothing ever goes according to my plan these days!
What are your favorite classes to teach?
I have loved teaching chemistry at the CP (college prep) and Honors levels for the past eight years. I have learned so much from my students and love to see how far they come during the course of the year. That being said, I am really excited to take on the new adventure of teaching AP Environmental Science this year. I majored in Environmental Science and it has always been my greatest passion (with Chemistry a close second) so I can’t wait to start this new journey with my students.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
My biggest successes are always when I get to witness that ‘ah-ha’ moment in my students. This is especially cool for students who have been struggling through a topic and then it just clicks all of a sudden. I also love to see the transition for a student who comes into my class and doesn’t really enjoy science, but leaves wanting to study more science. Those are the most powerful experiences in teaching for me.
What challenges face students today?
The ease at which they can get information. Google is an amazing thing, but sometimes it takes the work out of doing research and, if we are not careful, we might stumble upon information that is not peer reviewed or is based on opinions/emotions instead of facts. We must always remember to have a critical eye when researching and make sure there is enough evidence provided. In addition, we must remember that the most important things are the ones worth working for, so push through when the going gets tough!