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"A Teaching Moment" Interview: Ms. Saxena

By Kendall Higgins and Jasmine Chen :


“A Teaching Moment,” Episode 3: Ms. Saxena

AP Biology teacher Ms. Ramneek Saxena

Ms. Ramneek Saxena teaches AP Biology at Belmont High School.


Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity by the Highpoint staff.


Growing up in India, Ms. Saxena wanted to become a researcher or a teacher; during her school years, she assisted her younger brother with his studies. Ms. Saxena taught eleventh and twelfth grades in India for two years, prior to taking time off to care for her newborn daughter. According to Ms. Saxena, India has a culture of test-based competition due to its sizable population and the selective nature of job opportunities.


Some time after returning to work, Ms. Saxena resigned from her position, choosing to prioritize her children over her teaching job. In 1994, Ms. Saxena and her family moved to the United States after her husband received a job offer. She then took the American teaching license exams for chemistry and biology. When she came to America, she felt a newfound will to pursue her teaching career.


Ms. Saxena’s identity as a mother has shaped her perspective on teaching. Watching her daughters, now college graduates, grow up has granted her insight into students’ mindsets. According to Ms. Saxena, not only did becoming a mother make her a better teacher, but also being a teacher made her a better mother.


In her spare time, Ms. Saxena has many hobbies outside of school. During office hours students might spot her spending time on artistic pursuits such as oil painting and knitting; she enjoys learning new skills through practice. During the pandemic, Ms. Saxena produced a multitude of cloth masks. She also finds a sense of calm in other activities such as gardening that help her to create a balance between work and self-care.


Ms. Saxena would love for Belmont High School to have a greenhouse on its rooftop. She is interested in hydroponics and previously owned a personal hydroponic system, but found it too high maintenance during the winter months. Before February vacation, she brought in a water pump and some gardening supplies to begin growing a variety of plants in her classroom.


Ms. Saxena admires her students’ curiosity to learn and willingness to collaborate. In particular, she mentioned that several of her students study and complete homework together in her classroom after school or during free periods. She strives to make her classroom a safe space for students where a community of trust can be fostered. She implements social-emotional learning techniques such as paying attention to student feedback surveys, playing meditation videos before tests, and always greeting students when they walk into class.


Ms. Saxena’s all-time favorite lab was a fascinating zoology lab from her time as a student at university. She incubated an egg and then dissected the interior embryo. As a teacher, she enjoys conducting labs that encourage her students to use creative and critical thinking skills by designing their own experiments. It’s important to Ms. Saxena that her students learn through experimenting with various approaches to problem-solving. In the real world, scientific experiments and hypotheses are not always successful; data science is not always clean and results don’t always come out the way experts expect. Therefore, Ms. Saxena emphasizes the importance of practicing perseverance through failure.


Ms. Saxena also spoke about the education system’s tendency to make students believe that there is one correct answer, through methods such as multiple-choice tests. She makes clear that, in fact, there is not only one solution in life. She would love for BHS students to have the opportunity to learn more about STEM-based occupations as a facet of the curriculum, in order to expose them to potential career paths. Besides doctors, nurses, and scientists, there are many other interdisciplinary jobs under the STEM umbrella that are less known. Since Belmont High School is located near Boston, the home of numerous advanced STEM organizations, it would be fascinating to have guest speakers introduce students to career opportunities. Although Ms. Saxena offers online resources for students to explore the applications of their education, she believes that nothing can replicate the experience of listening to a live person discuss their career.


In remote learning, Ms. Saxena says, one hundred percent of cameras were on in her classes. If someone needed to keep theirs off due to personal reasons, they would simply show up early to let her know. Back then, she made a goal of calling on a student at least once per class. After all, she reflects, she was just one teacher speaking to thirty students, and if she hadn’t called on them, she wouldn’t have learned about their days or answered their questions. She wanted to make them feel seen and heard by interacting with them, even through the screen and even if their cameras were off. She feels that in contrast to pre-pandemic times, some of her current classroom communities lack the special dynamic created by trust and participation. Ms. Saxena recognizes that the transition back to normal school this year has been tough on students. When asked about her thoughts on assigned seating, she noted that she normally allows students in her classes to independently choose their seats as long as they remain productive, but because of COVID-19 protocols, she has had to implement permanent seating as of late.


Ms. Saxena believes that calling on students to speak should not be randomized. Sometimes she will see a spark in the eyes of a student who may wish to talk but is hesitant to participate. This is when she believes it is best to engage with that student and give them a chance to share their thoughts. When she does call on students on the spot, her goal is to gauge the students’ understanding levels. Ms. Saxena hopes to provide a voice to all of her students and to have her students realize that even if someone is quiet, that does not mean that they have nothing to say.

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2 Comments


Nicholas Mazzoni
Nicholas Mazzoni
Jun 08, 2022

Bro that's crazy🙀

Like

Jerry Zhu
Jerry Zhu
Jun 08, 2022

Inspirational!

Like
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