Catherine Garland

Science and Engineering Teacher, Uncommon Charter High School


I love helping to make sure that every student has the opportunity to take rigorous STEM courses so that, if they decide to pursue such a major, they are prepared to succeed.

What do you do?

I teach two different specialized science and engineering courses for high school juniors and seniors — Advanced Placement Physics 1 and Aerospace Engineering. In physics, I help students uncover the “why’s” about the world around us. Our favorite part of the week is our double-period when we do labs. Students get a lab challenge and then run the show, from choosing materials to designing a procedure, interpreting the results etc. Aerospace Engineering is a course offered through Project Lead the Way. It introduces students to many areas of aerospace engineering, including flight, robotics, materials science, rocketry etc. through project-based learning. Basically my job is to help students explore and expand their thinking about the natural and designed world in creative ways!

Why did you choose this field?

I was originally a college physics professor and did astrophysics research. I have always loved the night sky, from the first time my Mom took me to a planetarium. I didn’t think about it as a possible career (because I didn’t know such careers existed!) until my advisor in college urged me to consider it! Later, I chose to pivot and teach science and engineering at a high school in Brooklyn.  There were many reasons behind this change, including a desire to see if I could do something to address the under-representation of many groups in STEM fields.  My school primarily serves Black and Latino students—many students from similar backgrounds in NYC do not have the opportunity to take specialized, college-level STEM courses in high school.  (The courses are either not offered, or offered for a narrow slice of the school population.)   I love helping to make sure that every student at my school has the opportunity to take rigorous STEM courses so that, if they decide to pursue such a major in college, they are prepared to succeed.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

The joy I take in teaching! When I was younger I was very shy and hated talking in front of anyone. I never imagined I would grow to be comfortable in front of a group, let alone enjoy teaching all day every day!

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love everything about it! I love the chance to explore, to be creative, to explain why things are the way they are. I wake up thinking about what experiment, project or activity my students are going to work on that day. I look forward to them building their confidence and knowledge step-by-step until they become the “teachers.”

Best advice for next generation?

STEM is really about a mindset, about an interconnected, logical yet creative way of thinking. We need many different people to add their minds to the mix.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

Even in Brooklyn, I love to garden in my spare time! There is nothing like planting a tiny seed and weeks later seeing a flower bloom or picking a vegetable for dinner!

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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