Class Acts: A Q&A with Katie Merenda

Mallory Mitchell, a former student, nominated Katie Merenda for Class Acts. Mallory said Merenda's passion for her subject and love of students make her a teacher she won't forget. Merenda spends weekends taking her class on field trips so the lessons come alive and brings snacks on test days. Mallory said Merenda's teaching has inspired a love for the environment in her.

Name: Katie Merenda

Age: 43

Hometown: Born in Portsmouth, England, and lives in Salida

Occupation: Science teacher at Davis High School

Family: Husband, Steven Merenda, teaches science at Enochs High; two sons: Alexander, 6, second grade, and Max, 3, preschool.

Background: Air Force, reserve deputy sheriff, lab technician

Teaching experience: 13 years: one at Tracy High School, nine at Ceres High School, three for Modesto City Schools at Davis High School

Why did you get into teaching? A love of knowledge and to share it. A great dislike for ignorance, especially scientific issues.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher? I feel like it comes naturally — I feel like it's my calling because I enjoy the mentoring aspect of the job and hope to make a difference.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Building relationships with teens. They can be unpredictable, but relationships are important to building rapport and respect. I believe this is the key to being an effective teacher. I'll keep striving for this no matter how many times I mess up.

Favorite teaching tool or activity in the classroom: The hands-on learning — labs are the most fun.

What's next in your classroom? Well, hopefully lots of learning and lots of fun.

Advice for new teachers: Perseverance, lots of humor and patience. Mentally filter out the bad politics and red tape. It's the kids that count in the end.

Advice for students: As you go off into the world — remember acts of selflessness will bring you the greatest rewards. Stay humble, and forgive — even your parents make mistakes.

Advice for parents: Remember what it was like to be young. Remember to look through those eyes and you might understand your teen more.

Plans: To continue teaching, it's what I do. I would like to see my AP environmental class grow to at least two sections.

How do you to reach students not interested in school? Try to make the curriculum relevant to the world around them. Take the time to talk to them personally, show them you are interested and care.

What would surprise people about your job? Just how many hours we work outside of the classroom. Unless you teach, you have no idea.

What did you do on your summer vacation? Small family trips. The dollar was too weak for the European vacation this year, but next year it's got to get stronger because I'm going home.


"Class Acts" is a weekly spotlight on outstanding teachers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills. If you would like to nominate someone, please send his or her name and contact information, along with your name, phone number and the reason for the nomination, to jhanks@modbee.com.