New A.P. Biology teacher: Meet Mary BreslinMaking the change from the lab to the classroom
Teaching students how to do problems involving natural selection and evolution, A.P. Biology teacher Mary Breslin writes down examples on the board. For students, this was a new concept and Breslin demonstrated how to solve the problem on the whiteboard. "Even though it seemed complicated at first, after Ms. Breslin explained it, it made a lot more sense," junior Emily Giblin said.
The bell rings as the first class of the day starts piling in. New A.P. Biology teacher Mary Breslin waits for everyone to settle down as she mentally reviews the day’s lesson plan. It is her first-day teaching high school and she has been waiting for this day to come. With her fresh cup of coffee and an organized classroom, Breslin is ready for this new challenge.
Jumping from a middle school classroom into the high school classroom, Breslin moved to Las Vegas in hopes to become a science teacher after receiving her Ph.D. from LSU Medical Center in New Orleans. After teaching for a few years as an eighth-grade science teacher, Breslin decided to interview for the A.P. Biology position.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I wanted to see a different part of the US, I was ready to try something new.”[/perfectpullquote]
“I started with teaching middle school but I always knew I would eventually transition here [high school] because of the maturity and excitement students carry at this level,” Breslin said. “Also teaching high school students reminds me of the love and passion I had for science when I was a student.”
As a student growing up in Louisiana, Breslin took as many science classes as she possibly could to cater her fascination with the field. Her love of science stemmed from science projects and activities while growing up, which drove her to pursue her career in research. After graduating, she went straight to college and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky.
“I wanted to see a different part of the US, I was ready to try something new,” Breslin said. “I chose the University of Kentucky because my mom’s family is from Charleston, WV and that was about three hours away so that I had some family nearby.”
She stayed in Kentucky until she decided to enter the scientific research field. During that time, Breslin and her husband were dating and both decided to move to New Orleans in order to continue their relationship. Another factor that played a part in the decision to move back to Louisiana was the fact that her husband received a job offer in New Orleans.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”The process was stressful because you are in a room of people that already have Ph.D. and come from different disciplines so they ask questions that you do not necessarily expect.”[/perfectpullquote]
“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, but then after a while I realized research was for me,” Breslin said. “My husband and I were dating at the time and both wanted to be in the same city, so we thought New Orleans was a good place to end up together and my husband received a job opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.”
After moving back to her hometown, Breslin worked for a year before getting accepted into the Biochemistry program at LSU Medical Center. It was there where she worked in a research lab, defended herself against the committee and presented it in order to get her Ph.D. and graduate.
“The process was stressful because you are in a room of people that already have a Ph.D. and come from different disciplines so they ask questions that you do not necessarily expect,” Breslin said. “However it makes you a better researcher because it challenges you to always think and question what you are doing.”
Breslin’s primary role in the lab was as a research professor. Designing the experiments, writing/obtaining grants to fund the research and publishing papers in scientific journals were her main responsibilities. The focus of her research was to design a virus that could selectively kill neuroendocrine forms of cancer, one form being small cell lung cancer.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“I think that having the real world experience of what ‘textbook’ people are talking about is good for teaching.”[/perfectpullquote]
“I was fortunate enough because after I graduated I was offered a role in my former boss’s new research institution that was being opened,” Breslin said. “He was looking for new and young faculty, which is how I got the position.”
Breslin worked a total of 25 years at the Research Institute for Children at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, before deciding to move to Las Vegas to find her path in the education field. Breslin user her past experience to bring areal-world perspective to her lesson and students’ minds when learning about biology.
“I think that having the real world experience of what ‘textbook’ people are talking about is good for teaching,” Breslin said. “I studied a lot of genetics so when they talk about genetics or genetic testing, I actually have experience in that topic.”
Breslin plans to continue teaching biology in the future and hopes to still be at the high school level. With her passion and experience in the scientific field, her goal is to keep teaching students the importance of biology as a whole.
“I always loved science growing up and I still do, I just hope I am able to have students see it in the same perspective as I do,” Breslin said. “I am looking forward to teaching at this school and am grateful for this opportunity.