Who is Katie Wybenga?
An interview with Katie, our Secondary School Chemistry teacher.
What and where did you study?
I studied at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. A wonderful small college town, full of craft breweries and a short drive away from some national parks with beautiful mountains, perfect for getting away after stressful exams. I got my BS in Chemistry Education.
What were you like in high school and then Uni?
It’s likely what you’d imagine. I was a big science nerd and took all the science classes and electives offered and during my off periods, I would assist the science department in making solutions, cleaning glassware, and assisting with marking. Overall I was a good student, but honestly, I didn’t really have to try hard to get good grades so I had the tendency to be a bit lazy in the classes that didn’t matter to me as much. One thing that may surprise you is that in my senior year I was the captain of the varsity swim team and the leader of the freshman (grade 9) orientation team.
Once I got to University I actually had to start studying which was a huge wake-up call. Organic Chemistry and Thermodynamics were my hardest courses ever, and I spent hours at the library studying for those, but looking back they are my favorite classes as well. During University I worked for a nonprofit organization called “Little Shop of Physics” we visited schools around the state of Colorado and on Native American reservations with our tie-dye covered van full of science experiments made from everyday objects you could find around the house or in the hardware store. Our goal was to make science accessible and fun for all and that is still one of the highlights of my time at CSU.
What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? Do you remember the exact moment you decided to become a teacher?
I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in 4th grade. I knew I wanted to be in a profession that helped others. Like every kid, I also considered becoming a doctor or a veterinarian, but I hated the thought of having to study and look at cadavers. I knew I always liked to help my classmates in school and I always admired my teachers. As I went through middle and high school I decided I wanted to teach older kids and I was actually leaning towards being a math teacher like my grandpa was, but then after taking Chemistry in grade 10 I knew that I’d have the most fun teaching Chemistry for the rest of my life.
What advice would you give your high school self?
Have more fun! When you are in high school it seems like life can’t get any better. You see your friends every day (outside of COVID-19), you (probably) don’t have to do your own laundry, and for the most part, your parents/family financially supports you. Trust me, I miss these things!
But also remember, after high school, you can become whoever you want to be! The person you are in high school doesn’t need to be the same person you are for the rest of your life! Once you graduate high school you can go out into the world and reinvent yourself. Find your passion, learn new languages, make new friends, or start dressing differently and no one will know that in high school you were a “geek” or a “loner” or whatever else you may feel labeled as. That doesn’t mean you shouldn't stay friends with your high school group, they keep you grounded, so that years later when you’re off doing something totally awesome and living your dream you still have a few people in your life to remind you of your horrible fashion choices or your embarrassing moments in class.
Which countries have you taught or lived in?
I spent all of my formative years in Colorado and moved abroad after graduation. I taught Maths in Livingstone, Zambia (home to the magnificent Victoria Falls), English in Prague, Czech Republic, and have lived in multiple cities across Germany teaching Science. I consider Munich to be home in Germany as I worked there as an Au Pair for almost a year. I try to get back there to see my host family and friends often, as well as to visit the mountains and lakes.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I am an avid baker and hobby cook, both of which have come to full fruition during the lockdown. Growing up next to the mountains in Colorado I have always been a big hiker and in general an “outdoorsy” person. My previous school had the Duke of Edinburgh program and I loved getting outside and hiking with students! It was so great to see them in a completely new scenario, hiking, and camping. Like almost every younger person who moves to Europe I also really enjoy travel. However, I like to consider myself a person who enjoys going to “less touristy” spots. Most recently, but pre COVID, my favorite trip has been a 2-week backpacking adventure around Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. I used to be really into photography and it’s a hobby that I’m gradually trying to get back into.
What sports team do you support?
I’m a massive Tottenham Hotspurs fan. Every time I’m in London I make a visit to White Hart Lane, but sadly I haven’t been able to see the new stadium completed yet. The last time I was in London it was under construction, but it was also fun to watch a match at Wembley.
I just found out this year that Mr. Sweerts and Mr. Hobbins are as well, so that’s been great to find some fellow Spurs fans, COYS!
Some mixed Chemistry and Spurs humor!