By Karima Tawfik
Name: Leslie Van
Subjects: Matter and Energy, Honors Biology
Education: Binghamton University, M.A.
University of Rochester, B.A.
Previous Jobs: New York public school science teacher
Year started at MBHS: 2002
Hobbies: Cross-stitch, reading
Leslie Van, a Biology and Matter and Energy teacher at Montgomery Blair High School, sits at a large table at lunch with coworkers, munching on Cheez-its and telling jokes. She is young, outgoing, and spirited.
Van is of Asian descent, and grew up in Endwell, New York, a town she described as extremely suburban.
Van?s family valued a strong work ethic. "My dad?s philosophy was 'work hard and you will succeed,'" said Van. She gave priority to her homework and piano lessons rather than leisure activities such as watching television.
Her parents? attitude on studying did not mean that Van lived in a cold household. "My brother and I are really, really close," said Van. "We always took support from each other." She also said that her parents encouraged her in everything.
Van attended Maine-Endwell High School where she met a biology teacher who inspired her to become a science teacher. "My old biology teacher was like ninety-seven years old. He went off on tangents," she said, laughing. A new biology teacher came to school and "literally saved" Van. "She came in almost exactly like me. We even dressed alike," she said. "She?d come in first period with the same clothes as me. We?d be like, 'Someone has to go home and change!'"
Van enjoyed being a junior at Maine-Endwell High School. "It was the first year I really got involved in activities with many other people," she said. Some of those activities included joining the marching band and going to homecoming for the first time.
Van attended the University of Rochester for her Bachelor?s degree and Binghamton University for her Master?s degree. After graduating, she taught in New York for a year. In January 2002, she moved to Maryland and began working at Blair.
According to Van, one of the greatest parts of teaching is assisting students to become whatever they want to be. "Students want to graduate and we?re here to help them do that," Van said. "Plus it?s fun, sometimes," she added, laughing.
Although she enjoys her job, Van does not feel that educators are rewarded fairly. "Even Oprah said that teachers should get paid as much as actors and actors should get paid as much as teachers," said Van. She also explained that many students do not see teachers as people who work to help students. Instead, they often see educators as "the enemy."
As for her personal life, Van is engaged and plans to marry in 2004. She hopes to continue teaching in the future, but is also interested in becoming an obstetric nurse.