Kassie Wadsworth, Science Teacher

Science Teacher Kassie Wadsworth has brought inquiry and discovery-based learning to Ellis students in the Upper School for the last four years. A University of Pittsburgh alumna who originally planned to become a research scientist, Mrs. Wadsworth integrates her extensive experience from Pitt’s state-of-the-art labs into her biology and anatomy courses so students can garner a meaningful understanding of textbook lessons via active, experiential engagement. This fall, Mrs. Wadsworth’s students will take on their most high-profile and real-world experiment yet as they join the Small World Initiative, an innovative program that crowdsources budding scientists from across the nation to address the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics.
Years at Ellis:Four
Title:Science Teacher
Education:B.S. Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh; M.A.T., University of Pittsburgh

Tell me about how you got started at Ellis. Did you always know you wanted to be a teacher?
As an undergrad at Pitt, I was interning at Phipps Conservatory and actively researching in a developmental biology lab. Initially, I thought I would pursue research as a career, but I found that I loved working with students at Phipps and the educational aspect of lab work. So I chose to combine my two passions and get a Master of Arts in Teaching so I could become a biology teacher. When a position opened up at Ellis, I was teaching bio labs at Pitt and knew this opportunity was the right fit. It was the best of both worlds—I would be doing hands-on experiments and teaching students.

What are you most excited about for the 2017-2018 school year?
Ellis’ partnership with the Small World Initiative, a program designed by Yale to crowdsource antibiotic discovery to student researchers. This new program will have students doing authentic research in the classroom that could potentially be published and used for new antibiotics. So many antibiotics on the market today are becoming more resistant and less effective, so it’s a really worthwhile and important discovery-based experiment we’ll do together throughout the year. Biology students will bring in soil samples from around Pittsburgh and we will isolate and hopefully discover promising antibiotic producing organisms.

How do you think the all-girls classroom benefits learning?
It really allows students to try new things and ask questions with confidence. My students are curious learners who always want to know more. They are the first ones to tell you that, too. That’s one of the things I love about Ellis—my students are always engaged and eager to learn. At other schools I’ve been at, there hasn’t been as much excitement in the classroom. At Ellis, the girls want to learn and experience more so they can master and truly understand the material, rather than just memorize it.

When you think of Ellis, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Family. At Ellis, we really are a big family who lean on each other, help each other, and work together for the common good of supporting our wonderful students.

How do you spend your free time?
I have a one-year-old son, Dylan, and that’s how I spend my free time! We love to walk in South Park with our dog.

If you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Rosalind Franklin. She used X-ray crystallography to take pictures of DNA for the first time. She was one of the first women in science to really push the boundaries.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Approachable. Responsible. Creative.

What have you learned about female leadership since you started at Ellis?
There are a lot of strong women at Ellis. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that you just have to take the jump. To be a leader, you have to try something new and be willing to step in and say “I’ll do that!” If you never try, you’ll never get anywhere. Ellis girls are always willing to take the plunge and say “I’d love to help with that” or “I’ll be responsible for that.”

What is the best piece of advice you have been given, and by whom?
My father always said, “try hard and do your best.” I’ve always taken that to heart—that good things come to people who work hard. If I haven’t tried my hardest at something, I’m disappointed in myself.

What song do you never pass up on the radio?
“Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey and “Piano Man” by Billy Joel.

What is the last book you read?

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up"?
I wanted to be an art teacher or an astronaut. So I guess you could say I kind of found the happy medium!

What do you love most about your job?
I love that I have the freedom to try new things with my students. The Small World Initiative program we’re doing this year is a really great opportunity for students and myself and it’s been completely supported by Ellis, not constrained.