In order to share more of our amazing community here at SD, we offer this weekly #FacesOfSD to give you a chance to learn more about our faculty and staff. Today, we are thrilled to introduce Hilary Staples, Upper School Science Teacher and Science Department Chair.
Hilary has been working in education for more than 15 years, and her previous careers, as a zookeeper, wildlife biologist, veterinarian technician, outdoor guide, and naturalist, all inform her teaching. While at San Domenico, she has taken a leadership role in the Sustainability program on campus, from working in our Garden of Hope on student projects, to facilitating Earth Day and Green Your School Conferences. In addition, Hilary has been part of the technology innovation team through its various stages and into our current 1-1 iPad program. She teaches students both in the classroom and on experiential learning trips. She has lead trips exploring topics from water resources, in the deserts of the USA, to marine biology, from a kayak in Mexico, rainforest ecology, in Central America, and empowerment of women, in rural Africa. Hilary also can be seen speaking about Biomimicry: innovation inspired by nature, at conferences locally and around the world. She has a California Teacher Credential in Science (w/CTEL); a BS in Anthro-Zoology and Bio-Psychology, with honors from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and an MS in Education and Technology from Dominican University.
Q. Full name?
A. Hilary Staples
Q. Where were you born?
Q. Favorite word?
Q. What do you do here at San Domenico? And what is your favorite part of your job?
A. I am the science department chair in the Upper School, where I work with an amazing group of teachers, working to inspire our students to be thinkers and scientists. Currently, I teach Biology to 10th graders, and AP Psychology, AP Environmental Science (APES), and Environmental Science electives to 11th and 12th graders. I also teach the jewelry making and yoga mini-courses. I am also the Ecoliteracy Representative for the Upper School. I work with my Volunteer club, my Green Team club, and other faculty to organize sustainability actions and Earth Day, on campus. My favorite part of the job is when I get to witness a student conquering something that they didn't think they could do when they first set out. Whether it is understanding a complicated biological process in class or getting to the top of the mountain on our Catalina Island Spring Discovery trip, I love to see the look of accomplishment and confidence that grows over their face.
Q. Which Dominican value inspires you the most this week and why? (Study, Reflection, Community, or Service?)
A. This week I am going to say Service. Recently, I took a van full of students to the Ring Mountain Preserve to volunteer. They woke up early on a Saturday morning, before breakfast, and got all muddy to help do restoration work. I offered for us to leave a little early, but there were still more plants in the flats. The students said, “Let's finish, and plant them all.” The rangers had brought extra, not thinking that all the work could possibly get done in one day. Needless to say, they were grateful that our students showed up and helped plant almost 600 native plants, in a few hours.
Q. What might an average weekend look like, for you?
A. I love to get out and hike on the trails or go dancing if I get the chance. My husband takes students from UCSF backpacking, kayaking, and camping most weekends, and, since my son (Rio - 3rd grade) loves sports so much, I am usually going to his games and practices. Even when we are back home, we are hanging around with neighbors, playing ball in the street.
Q. List 1-3 of your most significant personal accomplishments, to date.
A. I have been asked to speak about Biomimicry at conferences in Thailand, San Diego, and our own Cal Academy of Sciences. I have bicycled through Vietnam and Cambodia. I have boated down the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon twice.
Q. List 1-3 of your most significant professional and/or academic accomplishments, to date.
A. I am a grader for the APES exam and teach new AP teachers best practices for teaching the course. I have taken students from San Domenico to Uganda, Belize, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Florida Everglades, the Grand Canyon, and Catalina Island. I have been at SD for 18 years, so I have been around to see projects such as the creation of the Garden of Hope and the installation of the solar panels move from a dream, to a plan, to reality.
Q. What was your best, professional "I wish someone had seen this" moment?
A. At the end of each semester, I play a review game in my class called "You Bet Your Nerd" to help students prepare for finals in a fun way and have them embrace that being a "nerd" around finals is a great idea! I have always dressed "nerdy" to add some levity to this stressful time of year. Over the years, the students have asked if they could also dress up. Usually, I get the typical interpretation of "nerd," however, one year, I had a student arrive in a full Spock outfit, ears, and all. She proceeded to embody the character and seemed to know all answers and knowledge without question. It was just what I love to see, students proud of their learning, being curious and engaged, while having a sense of humor about themselves and each other. Our supportive SD community allows that to happen all the time.
Hilary, for your adventurous sense of inquiry, and your inspiring leadership, and commitment to your students, we thank you. Our sustainability program would not be what it is without your vision and hard work, and every student who is challenged by your AP Environmental Science class leaves all the wiser. We are grateful for all you bring to our SD community!