2009 "A Teacher to Remember" winner -- Grades 9-12

Student: Mitch Murdock, 11th-grader, Kingston High School

Teacher honored: Kathleen Pavlich, Kingston High School


Student Mitch Murdock with teacher Kathleen Pavlich“Fire up those neurons!” Ms. Pavlich exclaimed as we groggily trudged into AP Biology. Ms. Pavlich has taught us to visualize the process of learning by alluding to our brain cells pulling up bits of information. Ms. Pavlich has taught me Biology is amazing. Biology class leaves me feeling exhilarated in knowing more about the world’s enormous opportunities and challenges from the life cycle of malaria and the prokaryotes living in my mouth to the cellular functions of the endoplasmic reticulum. Ms. Pavlich is a teacher to remember because she has changed the way I approach the world.


As a high school junior I am enthusiastically researching colleges with top level biology and international relations programs. Before taking Biology, I wanted to major in International Relations because the research I conducted in debate exposed me to the enormous complexities of our world. However, the depth of Biology Ms. Pavlich showed me trivialized the three debate tubs I crammed with painstaking hours of research and evidence. Biology has revolutionized how I think; a cell is a factory teeming with packaging, sorting and organizing, not just some microscopic spec; DNA is a complex molecule that triggers phenotypic variation, not just a fancy acronym.


I remember with painful ease the day Ms. Pavlich invited us all to “have some bacteria” for breakfast. Gross! Fresh in my mind were her jokes about mixing up her lunch with an experiment in the lab refrigerator (though I’m not convinced that was a joke!). The breakfast bacteria turned out not to be furry green mold but sourdough bread with yogurt and cream cheese. The lesson was on the diverse role prokaryotes play in our world. The impact of this lesson is still clear; yogurt is no longer a tasty afternoon snack but a concentration of lactic acid excreted from fermenting bacteria. Mmmmmm. This type of looking at the world in an entirely different way is why I love biology.


After learning the lesson about abut bacteria in our food, I felt a familiar feeling: as though my brain had been painfully extracted from my skull, molded into an entirely different shape, then whammed back into my head. This disorientation is constant from learning brand new subjects I never knew existed. Did you know Ms. Pavlich’s belief that biology rules the world is contagious; I dream of using biology to solve international problems. Because of Ms. Pavlich’s AP Biology class, I intend to double major in Biology and International Relations to apply the solutions of biology to the world’s challenges. Examples of internationally-significant biological problems abound: transnational pandemics affect socioeconomic trends like life expectancy and poverty; climate change affects food production and exacerbates the spread of disease; resource wars over water and forests require cross-border dialogue. I want to dedicate my life to these significant biological and political challenges. Ms. Pavlich initiated this impetus.  For example, she encouraged me to apply to the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute’s summer program for high school juniors called BioQuest Academy.


I am amazed at how involved Ms. Pavlich can be while still maintaining excellence in the classroom. When Kingston High School opened last year, Ms. Pavlich had an enormous challenge in organizing a new Biology program and AP class. Responding to such a tall order seemed easy for Ms. Pavlich, who simply maintained her enthusiasm of teaching biology. Despite her commitment to the class room, Ms. Pavlich also reaches out to our developing community by regularly attending basketball games and helping the sophomore class-as their class advisor-organize school spirit days. Ms. Pavlich is memorable for exposing me to the world.