Lelia Youn graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a BS in Biochemistry and a minor in Asian Studies. Originally pursuing a pre-med path, Lelia realized that her true passion was for learning and teaching, particularly in environments where she could develop personal relationships with students and celebrate their natural curiosity. She previously directed after school programs for several elementary schools in Chicago and has enjoyed spending her summers in Berkeley where she taught science at Camp Galileo. In each of these roles, Lelia was recognized for her ability to connect with students, parents, and colleagues. Lelia started her adventure at Nueva three years ago as an Associate Teacher working with first, fourth, and eighth grade sciences. Each year has brought on new and exciting challenges. Currently, she is teaching eighth grade Biology and working on Nueva Summer. This is a new area for her to explore and to share her passion for science and inquiry-based learning!
1. Was there a moment when you realized your true passion for teaching?
I honestly can’t think of a single moment. I’ve always been curious about understanding others and part of teaching is understanding people in order to support their learning. I’m still figuring it out and that always makes me strive to improve. A moment that does stand out in my mind where I felt “okay, maybe I CAN do this,” was two years ago in 8th grade biology where I was explaining biochemistry to the class. The students were struggling to understand a concept and after some back-and-forth with questions and answers, a student just gasped “OHHHH….!!”. It was the often-invisible light-bulb moment that is occasionally made visible with such reactions. It was a feel-good moment for me.
2. You have educated in a variety of roles, has that had an impact your approach to learning?
Whether as a learner or a teacher, you have to be true to yourself. Learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin. I’m discovering that there is no one way to learn as there is no one way to teach. The only way to teach and to learn is to be authentic, true, and adventurous. Those are not easy to do and be, and I hope to help my students be those things as much as they have helped me embody that.
3. What was your favorite summer? What did you do?
My favorite summer was the first summer I came to the Bay Area. I lived in the Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood in San Francisco and worked at Camp Galileo in Berkeley. I was surrounded by amazing people who truly embodied collaboration, appreciation, and determination. It was truly the beginning of my amazing adventure that led me to Nueva and it hasn’t ended yet. I constantly find myself surrounded by truly kind, compassionate individuals who are both old-souls and young-at-heart.
4. When not in the classroom, where might your own curiosity and inquiry take you on any given weekend?
I love going for walks in the city, in nature, just about anywhere! Also, I’ve recently gotten back into yoga and mindfulness. However, in the midst of daily life and demands, it is hard to make it a priority; but I’m working on it! I also love thinking and talking about life, philosophy, and understanding what makes people tick.
5. If Nueva were a famous scientist, who would it be? Why?
Leonardo da Vinci. Nueva is so both multi-faceted and multi-talented that to simply identify it as a scientist is too limiting. Nueva is embodied by scientists, artists, writers, engineers, doctors, historians, debaters, athletes, naturalists, dreamers, thinkers, life-long learners. Like da Vinci, as a community Nueva truly is “the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man,” an individual of “unquenchable curiosity and ‘feverishly inventive imagination’” (from Wikipedia). Full of wonder and ideas, we never stop asking questions, seeing the beauty around us, and imagining a better future.
February 17, 2017