Kristen Dotti earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Education from Prescott College and her master’s in Biology from Northern Arizona University. Her graduate thesis resolved the species relationships of the genus Lysopomia through field collection of plants in the Andes Mountains and morphological and genetic laboratory analysis of those samples. She has been teaching math and science education for more than 33 years in public and private institutions. While teaching middle school, high school, and university-level science she has focused on redesigning courses in such a way that students take responsibility for their own exploration of learning. She has written General, AP, and IB curricula for Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, and Environmental Science, all of which use polymodal techniques to engage students and demand higher-order thinking. Kristen currently lives in Asheville, NC where she teaches full-time in the Biology Department at the University of North Carolina Asheville. When she is not hiking and biking with her dogs, she can be found coaching teachers online or traveling to schools all over the world as an educational consultant, IB workshop leader, and professional development trainer.
I believe teachers—at every level of education—act as doorways for students. We transport them into foreign worlds where new ways of thinking can be explored. We guide them and keep them focused when things become murky or trying. We have the responsibility of continuously challenging students by asking them to examine misconceptions and consider issues from different perspectives. We are there to help them have the confidence to explore complex concepts and articulate their own thoughts and ideas in relation to others. Our role often is to provide structure, like an orchestral conductor. We give students a creative framework and then hold the space open with encouragement so they are able to perform in their own unique and expressive manner.
Teachers of AP and IB classes are challenged in a particular way because of the pressure to have students acquire a huge amount of knowledge in a short period of time. In an era when there is more information readily available than can be learned in a thousand lifetimes, memorization of facts becomes secondary to the ability of a person to be resourceful. An AP or IB teacher’s role is to help students decipher which facts are foundations and learn how to critically sort through the abundance of information associated with those facts. We demonstrate learning as an active process using critical thinking, questioning, and analysis rather than as an act of retrieving stored ideas. As teachers, we model what it is to revel in curiosity and quest for knowledge on a journey that lasts a lifetime.