Tell the HTA Ohana a little bit about yourself, Traci:
I am married to Ben Sullivan. I have three children, Emily, Luke, and Nate. We have a dog, a cat, and a fish. My daughter is a senior in high school getting ready for college, and my boys attend HTA. My family is very busy with soccer practice, mock trial, robotics, boy scouts, surfing, video games, volunteering, and science (yes, we all love science!)
What is your role at Hawaii Technology Academy?
I teach math and science at HTA. My home base is on Kauai, but I am lucky to work with students in Kona too. In my spare time, I coach robotics. Our HTA robotics team was amazing this year! Next year, I would like to start a science olympiad team!
Will you share a bit about your academic background?
My academic life started ramping up in 7th grade when my math teacher, Mr. Bromley, noticed that I was pretty good at math. He moved me to the algebra I class which empowered me as a student. I went to Fort Collins High School, in Fort Collins, Colorado, where I continued to study math. It was in high school that Mrs. Patterson introduced me to general biology, genetics, and anatomy and physiology. I was so hooked on science, I continued my studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I earned degrees in Environmental Biology and Education.
What made you interested in teaching?
When I started school at the University of Colorado, I was a pre-med student. I really, really wanted to be a doctor. So, I studied. My classes were engaging, and I had amazing professors. It wasn’t long before I met my soon to be husband, and I realized that I wanted to get married and start a family. Suddenly, my goal of becoming a doctor didn’t seem as important. I spent some time reevaluating what I wanted, and I realized that one of the reasons I was a successful student was because I loved school. I loved learning new things. I loved figuring things out. In addition, I had Mr. Bromley and Mrs. Patterson and many other great teachers and professors in my life. Looking back now, it seems obvious that I was going to be a teacher from the very beginning.
What is your first memory associated with teaching?
My first memory associated with teaching….this is a difficult question. I have so many memories. At Boulder High School, one of my students wrote a beautiful song about photosynthesis. This was 25 years ago and I still remember the tune! I built a hovercraft to teach Newton’s Laws to Kalaheo Elementary students. The students got to ride on it; that was fun. These same students made liquid nitrogen ice cream to investigate matter and phase change. My middle school students at Kapaa Middle School used to host family science nights where they taught their parents the science they were learning. I have traveled with students to Robotics, Science Olympiad, and Mock Trial competitions. The traveling was awesome, but watching the students work together, solve problems, present ideas, argue the law (in the Hawaii Supreme Court!), and win awards have been highlights of my teaching career. And, just this year, Stephen and Ben took some great photographs of cells under the microscope, Logan did “real science” when he transformed bacteria, and Rachel dissected a pig like a pro. Nicholas stumped me with his ideas about the 4th dimension, Kilinoe showed inspiring grit, and the Kauai and Kona algebra I students used linear equations to investigate gas station rip offs. Fantastic! I could go on all day...
What do you find most challenging and rewarding about being a teacher?
The most challenging thing about teaching for me is the fact that I am limited by the number of hours in the day. There are so many things I want to do, and finding time to fit everything in is challenging. The most rewarding thing is the students. There is nothing better than hanging out with students all day; especially when I get to see them learn something new.
Music? I love Simon and Garfunkel, Bonnie Raitt, Salt n Pepa, James Taylor, Maroon 5, Queen, U2, Prince, John Mayer, and Eminem. Pretty much anything.
Book? To Kill a Mockingbird, Pillars of the Earth, Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack, The Sixth Extinction, Your Inner Fish, A Brief History of Nearly Everything, and The Selfish Gene.
Travel Destination? Paris!
Quote? “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” EO Wilson.
If you were to summarize “YOU” in only one sentence, what would that sentence be?
I really do like to solve for x; I think it’s fun.