Of Antarctica Beckons, But U.Va. Graduates Passion Is Teaching
May 6, 2002-- With its subzero
temperatures, relentlessly white landscape and daunting isolation,
Antarctica is not high on the list of summer destinations.
Emily Yam is chafing to get there for her second visit in
certain type of person gets addicted to Antarctica, and I think
Im one," she said.
fifth-year student who will graduate May 19 from the University
of Virginia with a bachelor of arts degree in biology and a masters
in teaching from the Curry School of Education, Yam was both humbled
and dazzled by her 40 days at the bottom of the world last summer.
She was the youngest person among nearly 50 researchers aboard the
research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer on an expedition coordinated
by a group called Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics.
temperatures were numbing, to be sure. "The coldest I felt
was minus 60 degrees Celsius, which is about minus 76 Fahrenheit.
That included the wind chill factor. I went right back inside,"
she said and chuckled.
once did she suffer from the cold. Rubber gloves she wore one day
while towing nets allowed moisture to get against her hands and
freeze. "The next day was so painful I couldnt touch
pain was overshadowed by Antarcticas beauty.
just an amazing place. Extreme is such a small word for it. Everything
is so extreme, and its so pristine," she said.
the white upon white of snow and ice yielded hidden gems. "Everything
is white, but its not white. You see subtle colors within
the white, different shades. Its so beautiful."
isolation caused a few wrinkles brief spasms of being homesick,
mild cravings for something other than ships food but
it heightened her awareness of things, from daily details to life
just appreciate everything," Yam said. "I felt very aware
mission focused on studying the distribution and survival of Antarctic
krill, and its availability as a food source to other animals such
as seals, penguins and whales.
credits good luck with landing a berth on the Palmer. She had worked
several seasonal stints at the National Science Foundation in Arlington,
and during the summer of 2000, she used her breaks to drop in on
the polar research group.
always been interested in polar research." She became friends
with one of the scientists, and when that person needed a graduate
student for the summer trip, Yam got the nod.
much as she loves Antarctica, Yam loves teaching more. Her eyes
light up when she talks about being a teaching assistant in a vertebrate
zoology lab at the University. And her experience student-teaching
at Potomac Falls High School in Loudoun County was rewarding, both
for her and for teachers there.
of Currys initiatives is its technology transfer program
introducing teachers to computer technology that can help improve
we attempt to do is use student-teaching as a vehicle for technology
integration in the schools by modeling technology use, just as they
would provide the pedagogical model," she said.
schools effort seems to be paying off, said Randy Bell, assistant
professor in science and technology education at the Curry School
and Yams adviser. In addition, teachers who have done unusual
research, such as in Antarctica, enter the classroom with greater
credibility and quickly capture students interest.
is kind of the epitome of that kind of teacher coming into the picture,"
Bell said. "She is one example, and we have others with experiences
just as unique and as interesting as hers. Shes exceptional,
and she has a lot of exceptional classmates as well."
others, Yam has made helping others a priority since coming to U.Va.
from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in
Northern Virginia. She has been a peer mentor and volunteer in numerous
although she isnt sure what shell do after she returns
from Antarctica in September, her optimism is infectious. "At
this point, Im up for doing anything," she said. "I
just want to be open" to possibilities.
her interests and background, dont be surprised if those possibilities
focus on teaching. She has a genuine passion for it.
think that once you have the bug, you end up being a teacher, even
in everyday life."
Lee Graves, (434) 924-6857