Staff Stories: How Teaching and Tour Guiding Combine
I started my professional career in the midst of the pandemic; the ultimate turning point for young people fresh out of college. I did not know that I was in for the most difficult time to begin a career as a teacher. I gave my career my all for two years, but found myself quickly burning out and burning the candle at both ends. Despite the first two years of teaching being difficult as it was, I was doing everything I had learned in college but nothing could have prepared me to take on the new sets of challenges that stemmed from the pandemic. When I began looking at other jobs, I originally had applied to other teaching positions. However, I had seen the Tour Guide position at Yerkes and took a chance. Deep down I knew that this position was unique in the sense that an opportunity to work in an historic place like this would never appear again.
Now that I am the Tour and Programs Coordinator here at Yerkes, I cannot help but draw parallels between the two professions. Teaching requires patience and the ability to read your audience and their reactions. A lot of my classroom teaching was guided by how my students understood the material they were learning and connected it to pedagogy and curriculum. I spent my time making sure my content was easy to digest and engaging enough to remember.
Tour guiding is extremely similar. It is a lot of performing to keep your audience engaged and make them as enthusiastic as you are. Working at a place like Yerkes certainly makes it easy. Luckily, the main difference is there is no take homework and papers to grade.
Coming from an English background, astrophysics was a field that generally went way over my head. However, the more that I researched and allowed myself to become a student again, the more knowledgeable I became. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had become the teacher I always hoped I would be, even if the demographics look a little different.
Although the universe took me in a different direction than I had originally planned, it led me to the greatest teaching position I could have ever had. As more guests come in and tell me their stories and connections to this amazing place, I feel right at home and excited to continue my work here. Current and former teachers who take my tours always tell me that although I am not in a school anymore, I am definitely still a teacher.
As Yerkes continues to grow and invite students of many ages to learn astronomy and astrophysics concepts, the legacy of learning and discovery will continue. Now that we have hired our Deputy Director and Head of Education, Dr. Amanda Bauer, she has a grand vision for the future of the programs here. As all the best teachers do, I hope to keep learning and growing as a professional and am looking forward to what the future has in store for me and for my “students.” Below, you can see a photo of me and my first tour group.