Meet Jovel Queirolo, a biology teacher and ant ecologist!

Hi, I'm Jovel Queirolo!

What kind of work do you do?

I am a 9th grade biology teacher. That means over a course of a year, I teach my students about the different topics that fall into the category of biology—from ecology to cells to genetics to evolution. My goal is for my students to develop a basic understanding of the fundamentals of biology while also developing some beginning scientist skills such as asking scientific questions, creating and carrying out investigations, and reporting their findings.
Each night, I review a lesson plan that I will teach the following day. Each day, I teach the same lesson four times to four different groups of students. Each class contains about 30-32 students. As you can imagine, I’m exhausted by the end of each day! The rewarding part of my job is constantly being pushed to make sure I’m an expert on whatever biology topic I’m teaching that day, developing relationships with my students, and pushing them to be the best scientist and overall person they can be.

How did you become interested in biology, and what did you study?

I became interested in biology when I was a 9th grader. I had a really passionate biology teacher who pushed me to think in ways that allowed me to see the world in new light. When he taught us about botany, I never looked at a tree the same way. It was exciting to be able to identify and explain how the different parts of the tree were working together to keep it alive. When I got to college, I knew I wanted to continue learning about living things and how they grow, survive, and interact. Eventually I joined a lab that studied ants, and spent three years thinking about how ants work and live together in communities to keep a colony alive and well.
In college, I also discovered how much I enjoy working with people. I had jobs working at a community center, and I also had a job managing a cooperative house. A cooperative house is a house of 30 to 50 college students who cook, clean, and live together. I love being in roles where I can help people feel comfortable and safe. I realized that I could combine my interests in biology with my interests in working with people in growth and learning. Teaching biology combines my endless fascination with the natural world as well as a chance to help young people learn life skills and to develop the academic and social skills they need to be successful in life.

What do you do for fun in your spare time?

In my spare time, I love being outside! I’m on a competitive swim team, I’m currently getting my SCUBA certification, and when I’m not in the water you can find me hiking around a redwood forest or on a breezy cliff. Since I’m a teacher, during my summers I can do field work which means I can be outside helping biologists collect data. You can also find me spending my spare time with my parents or exploring the many coffee shops, parks, and restaurants located in and around the San Francisco Bay Area with friends.

What’s your one piece of advice for people interested in biology?

I think that people interested in biology should get involved with some biology! That can happen many ways. You can do a quick Google search to see if you can help out with any citizen science opportunities. This often involved helping local conservation organizations survey what species are in a given area and to compare the presence of that species over the course of a few years.
Another way to get involved with some biology is to reach out to local university professors. Often professors or graduate students will take on an undergraduate or high school volunteer. When I was an undergraduate, I started off helping out a postdoctoral researcher with her project and ended up continuing her work to create my undergraduate research project. Some of my friends have worked in many different labs to try out the many different types of biology. Remember: there are MANY different areas of biology! If you like animals and plants, you might consider volunteering in a lab that studies animals or plants. If you find genetics fascinating, volunteer in a lab that works with DNA.
Even though sometimes science feels far away, it is very accessible if you actively look for opportunities to get involved. Be persistent, and you can succeed.
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