In the spirit of evolution, shall we start at the beginning?
A young Ms. Broo grew up on the west side of Cincinnati, attending grade school at Saint Ignatius, but not very interested in science until seventh or eighth grade. Can you even imagine?! She says that AP Biology at McAuley was when she really decided what she wanted to do. Before this, though, Broo thought about working with NASA on research, astrophysics, or something of the like. Where would we be without Ms. Broo’s biology jokes, though?
Ms. Broo then went to the University of Dayton, where she focused on ecology, ecological restoration, and conservation and earned her undergraduate degree in biology. “It was tough … but I loved it, especially once I got to the upper level science classes,” she says of her experience. Part of the reason why may have been because she had the opportunity to research a species of invasive algae in Hawaii as well as a species of invasive marsh grass through a summer internship with the University of Delaware. “Fascinating stuff!” she jokes.
Ms. Broo says that her biggest influence in college was her advisor, Dr. Williams, for whom she worked as a teaching assistant during her time at UD. They still keep in contact, and he even went to her wedding! “He was a great mentor -- just so excited about the sciences and so enthusiastic -- always really encouraging and supportive.”
Ms. Broo’s students and friends could say the same about her. Josie Buendia ‘19: “I feel so blessed to have Ms. Broo as a mentor. She is so passionate about biology and really brings her passion to classes and club meetings.” Mr. Tonnis: “I have always enjoyed working alongside Ms. Broo. She is passionate, not only about teaching, but about biology, and she continues to work toward learning more about her subject and taking what she has learned and applying it in the classroom. She helps all of her students not only learn the material, but the larger implications of what they are learning and how biology is relevant to their lives. It continually inspires me to strive to do the same.” Ainsley Worthley ‘19: “It’s really amazing to have a teacher that is so involved in the research on the subjects she’s teaching, allowing her the unique opportunity to give her students a more in-depth and passionate look at the subject.” Ms. Jennings: “Ms. Broo is one of the smartest and most talented teachers I know. She holds her students to high standards and is skilled in making applicable connections between the topics they learn in the classroom to real life scenarios. We are very blessed to have Ms. Broo in our science department and I am lucky enough to call her one of my closest friends.”
What was Ms. Broo doing before coming to SUA, though? “It’s kind of a long story,” she says. She graduated from UD with a B.S. degree in biology, but hesitated when granted opportunities to obtain a PhD. “I wasn’t sure if any of the professors I’d been accepted under or projects that I would be doing were what I really wanted to do; I just wasn’t ready to commit to six to eight years of research,” she says. The solution was to take a break and try out teaching, just to see how it went. Six years later: “It turns out I really like it!” Ms. Broo earned her master's degree in secondary education at Xavier University before first teaching juvenile delinquents at Hillcrest in Cincinnati and then at an inner city public school in Savannah, Georgia. “I liked it a lot … but I also love biology a lot, and I was doing a lot more discipline and teaching really low level classes. I missed higher level biology classes.” That’s when she received the opportunity to teach AP Biology at an international boarding school in Orlando, Florida and was later recruited to teach at a school in Jupiter, Florida and be the chair of her department. “It was a dream schedule -- a dream location … and then I met my husband.” They met when Broo was spending the summer in Cincinnati during the move from Orlando to Jupiter. “We did the long distance thing for a while … it clearly worked out.” That was when she moved back to Cincinnati.
At this point, Ms. Broo knew that she wanted to teach in a private school so that she could design her own curriculum and teach at a higher level. She had never wanted to go to medical school -- it “wasn’t the type of biology [she] was interested in” -- and had always loved being a camp counselor, but teaching was only supposed to be an experiment. She had always seen herself teaching younger kids, if anyone, but she loved biology too much to give up teaching the higher level classes. “So here I am six years later!”
At SUA, Ms. Broo teaches AP, Honors, and CP Biology along with a biotechnology course. In addition to teaching, she is the club moderator for Biology Club, helps with astronomy club meetings, and is the assistant moderator (“or something like that”) for Mock Trial. The reason Ms. Broo sticks with it is mostly the professional development that she does. “I’ve been lucky enough to find opportunities, especially with the University of Florida, where I get to at least get a little taste of research during the summer, or hang out in a lab for two weeks, or go on a dig in the field.” She continues, “It is rough. You could make more money doing something else. I don’t think society always respects teachers compared to some other professions. It’s kind of like, ‘Well you have a biology degree -- could you not hack it as a doctor?’ But I believe that science education is important and I hope that what I’m doing can make a difference and help improve the world.”
Ms. Broo is currently working on publishing an article. Her latest one, “Drowsy Drosophila: Rapid Evolution in the Face of Climate Change,” was just accepted for publication in the American Biology Teacher Journal after two rounds of peer review and will appear in print in a matter of months. “I am surprised at how much better my final paper is after being forced through peer review so many times. The thing that English teachers tell you -- that rewriting is super important -- actually works!” she jokes. The article uses fruit flies to model how climate change can impact the evolution of a species, and how it will impact species if the trends of our current world continue. “[My students] were probably the guinea pigs for some of my curriculum - you guys had to fill out a bunch of surveys to get data. We have 14,000 student surveys for [one of the sections].” Broo says that it was challenging, first, to find data that was statistically significant, and second, to write curriculum for an audience broader than just her students at Saint Ursula Academy and to write it in a way that was understandable and useful to a teacher that she’d never met, maybe on the opposite side of the country.
Looking back, she says that her experiences just reaffirm the idea that education is essential. “It surprises me how many people don’t understand or don’t have a strong science background, especially when I combine evolution and climate change, which the scientific community in no way considers controversial, but from the outside world … people just get defensive.” She believes that giving people these strong science backgrounds is important “so we have scientifically literate citizens, especially with all the advances in genetics, and medicine, and climate change, and conservation issues.”
She hopes that her students (if they don’t become world-famous conservationists) simply have a better understanding of the sciences and “can at least tell the difference between a story that is accurately portraying science and one that is clearly pseudoscience, and then, big picture, that their future votes will be based on what they understand about science and what they’ve learned from my class.”
To be a teacher, Ms. Broo believes that one has to have passion. “It’s not always easy to teach teenagers -- not that all my students at Saint Ursula aren’t awesome people -- and to work with other administrators and other bosses and coworkers.” She believes that one has to have dedication, diplomacy, and drive in order to continue improving and stay up to date. “I had to rewrite [some of] my cancer unit -- it’s great that it was outdated though, because it means that new things are coming, like crispr [genome engineering] and gene therapy.”
Her final piece of advice: “Find what you’re passionate about and use that passion to make the world a better place.”