Teacher Feature: Ms. Pendleton


Ms. Laura Pendleton teaches freshman biology as well as human anatomy and physiology. She has been teaching full-time for eight years, all of those years being at West Po. Before teaching at West Po, Ms. Pendleton did some long-term substitute teaching at Marshall High School. When asked about what she likes about West Po, Ms. Pendleton responded saying she likes the community here. She said in the interview, “It’s fun to come to work everyday and be able to both work hard with other people creating lessons and learning opportunities but also being able to have fun with them.“ Ms. Pendleton added that she has made a lot of great friends working at West Po.

Ms. Pendleton attended the College of William and Mary for undergrad, where she earned her degree in biology, and she went to the George Washington University for her master’s degree in education. Her interest in biology began in her freshman biology class when her class did a fetal pig dissection. She thought the dissection was extremely cool, saying, “I just really enjoyed seeing how all of the pieces of the animal fit together and how they all worked together, and I found it fascinating.” Ms. Pendleton took AP Biology in her senior year of high school and loved it, so she knew the biology major was right for her.

Ms. Pendleton greatly enjoyed college because of the freedom she had. She enjoyed being able to choose when she had her classes and when she participated in other activities. She said in the interview regarding college, “It’s really nice to be able to choose how you spend your time.” She believes maintaining a balance between work and play is important, and she found it easier to do this in college compared to high school. 

An interest in teaching did not come to Ms. Pendleton quickly. In fact, she did not decide to pursue teaching until after graduating from William and Mary. She was unsure of what to do next after undergrad, so she began to consider teaching. After talking to some of her old high school teachers about their experience, she decided to start substitute teaching. After a position opened up for a long-term substitute teacher for a biology class, Ms. Pendleton decided to take it. She had a blast doing it, explaining, “I loved working with the students. I loved planning some of the lessons. I had a lot of fun with it.” This experience gave Ms. Pendleton the desire to pursue a master’s degree in education.

When asked what her favorite part of teaching is, Ms. Pendleton said she loves seeing students develop an understanding of the material. She explained in the interview, “I really enjoy helping students find those lightbulb, a-ha moments. It’s really fun to see a student who didn’t understand something have it click when they get it.” She said moments like those are really fulfilling for her.

Ms. Pendleton tries to not only teach the content to her students, but also life skills. She believes it is important to help students understand how to develop life skills with the content, explaining, “Yes, it’s good to know that the mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell… but it’s more important to learn how to communicate that information or how to apply some of the logic skills that we learn in biology to new situations.” She illustrates another side of education about how learning the content is important, but education can be even more valuable with the life skills it teaches. Ms. Pendleton says she always teaches with this in mind. She added, “learning how to learn is actually really important because you’re gonna be learning throughout the rest of your life, just without the guidance of a teacher.”

Outside of school, Ms. Pendleton enjoys reading, hiking, and dancing. For a long time, she was a competitive swing dancer. She said she does not dance as much anymore, but she still goes out to competitions occasionally. She started ballroom dancing in college and moved into swing dancing after college. She explained, “I had always just kind of wanted to learn how to dance, like you see Dancing With The Stars on TV, I wanna know how to do that!” She had a lot of fun dancing in college and met a lot of great people. She says some competitions require you to enter with a partner, but sometimes they pair you with a random partner. Ms. Pendleton enjoys being randomly paired up because it removes some of the pressure. She explained, “it’s a fun way to just kind of go out there and have fun. You couldn’t really practice for it because you don’t know this person and you just dance and see how it goes.” When it comes to hiking, Ms. Pendleton enjoys hiking on the trails in Shenandoah National Park, especially in the fall. She also enjoys hiking at Great Falls and nature walking at Huntley Meadows. Ms. Pendleton said, “being outside in nature is kind of nice for clearing the mind and recentering yourself.”