Subha Ramadoss, Huron High School physics teacher

Subha Ramadoss grew up in New Delhi, India. Her mother was a high school science teacher and her father worked in the National Informatics Center as one of the Directors.

Inspired by her mom, she did her graduate studies in Physics and Engineering at the University of Delhi. She later earned a graduate degree from the University of Michigan.

Ramadoss worked as a Research Engineer working in optical sensors and nuclear detectors before choosing to join the University of Michigan to become a teacher. She joined Ann Arbor Public Schools in 2015 and loves all aspects of teaching. Apart from her school work, she loves to sing, play/teach violin, spend time experimenting in the kitchen, and recently has gotten tangled up in crochet yarns.

When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?

During my first year of teaching, I taught in two schools—Community High and Huron High. I loved teaching in both schools but switched to Huron because of my passion for physics.

At Community High I had several students taking engineering for the first time and it was rewarding to help them see the scope of engineering.

One of my fondest memories is when my AP Physics students burst into music and dance mode just because it was the last day before the holidays in December.

There are many such sweet memories I have of my students which I can easily string into a necklace and wear forever.

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?

My advice to a first-year teacher is ‘just be a sponge’. Learn as much as you can from other teachers, other staff members, and even from students. Everyone at AAPS is so welcoming and helpful. I had the greatest teachers at Huron (Michael Sumerton and David Caine) as my mentors and everything they taught me made me the teacher I am today. Build a positive relationship with students and they are capable of giving you so much love and affection in return.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

My mother is my greatest inspiration. Ever since I remember, my mother used to encourage me to conduct small experiments at home – from sprouting chickpeas to learn the stages of germination, to making the biggest bubble to learn about surface tension, to making a robot that would point to the right answer when asked a pre-set question. My mother, who was also a science teacher, also showed me how to be enthusiastic even when things may seem boring and how to learn by doing.

Physics always intrigued me because of its very mysterious nature. I recall when as a middle schooler I asked my mother, “What is physics?” She replied, “It is a branch of knowledge where you learn about why mysterious things happen around you—like things fall down, like lightning, like birds flying, like magnets attracting/repelling.” As a middle schooler, those words were enough for me to get on this journey of exploration.

What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?

The best compliment I have ever gotten was from a student. He was very thankful for giving him multiple chances and ways to improve his performance in the class and he wanted to continue taking physics classes in college. I did not realize till that point that being even a little flexible can go a long way in improving a student’s self-confidence.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning?

I learned a lot in Year 3. After the first two years of educating myself about the resources and learning how to be a facilitator rather than an ‘all-knowing adult’ in the classroom, I really enjoyed learning the intricacies of teaching. Developing relationships, leveraging it to inculcate interest in my students for learning the content, applying various effective strategies in the classroom so I don’t lose my students to their cell phones, etc. I learned them all during Year 3.

Describe an average workday.

An average workday is quite busy and engaging. At Huron, we teachers are either with the students or with each other collaborating. It is very stimulating and I learn and apply new things every day.

What’s the happiest part of your day?

I love teaching and the happiest part is when I am with my students.

What’s unique about working at Huron?

Huron has a very collaborative environment. Imagine a group of children trying to build a sandcastle on a beach. I feel like one of those children with the teacher’s group with a sole focus on building a conducive learning environment for our students. Our student population is very diverse. It is like you are teaching to the world population. As an IB world school, our focus is to develop a highly-skilled global learning community. It is truly a unique school.

Apps you can’t live without:

TurboScan. I literally scan everything to create its electronic version. I believe you can really layer anything creatively to create cool stuff.

If you could know the definitive answer to any one question, what would that question be?

What do my kids like to eat? Answer: Paneer curry.

If you could talk to your teenage self, what would you say?

Do what you want to do and not what others want you to do. But always research and educate yourself very well before taking any major decisions.

What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year?

Students love to read their messages instantly on their cell phones and do not necessarily want to reply immediately. I realized this when I got transparent pouches for my class where students could place their cell phones during class. They could see the messages that came to them but could not reply to them when the class was going on. Students did just fine with it.

How do you keep students engaged?

My class is most engaged when I relate content to their daily lives. If I add humor to the lectures so they participate more.

How do you show school spirit?

I brag about my students to anyone in the community. I am a huge advocate for my students and my
school. I can convert anyone skeptical to a River Rat!

What is the most rewarding part of teaching?

When students are happy in class and enjoy the content. Nothing compares to that feeling.

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?

It is so much more than just teaching content. Typically, teachers meet 120-150 students per day. Most
teachers help students problem-solve, not just inside of classes, but also outside in their lives. It is a 24/7
job. The job involves constant thinking about the stakeholders to get the best out of them and this is
something that remains hidden from the world.

How do you spend your summers?

I love to cook, garden and travel. I spend a lot of time coming up with healthy alternatives to junk food. I
strongly believe that everything healthy can be made tastier than fast foods with natural ingredients.

If you could plan the perfect dinner, what would you eat and with whom would you be seated?

A perfect dinner for me is just a warm soup and a hearty sourdough bread. I love to share this with my kids
and my husband.

What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?

The most exciting thing about my professional life is being in the classroom with all the tools of teaching that are available now. I am excited to teach students in person but also to utilize Schoology, Jamboard, Peardeck, and other software tools that we used during online schooling to make my teaching more interesting and collaborative. I am also very excited about my son finishing high school this year and embarking on a new exciting journey in college and my daughter finishing her graduate studies this year and starting a new professional life.

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