Name: Susan Moerder
Title: Program Coordinator and Lead Instructor, Academic Connections Global Environmental Leadership and Sustainability
Company: UC San Diego Extension
Courses taught: Global Environmental Leadership and Sustainability; Biosphere 2, Hawai'i and Washington, D.C., Academic Connections
Susan Moerder’s been a teacher for more than four decades with experience that spans the education spectrum. She’s been a yearbook adviser, chaired the science department at Francis Parker School and facilitated workshops for educators and middle school students at UC San Diego’s Super Computer Center. She’s been involved with Academic Connections since 2011, a program that gives high-achieving high school students a chance to delve into college-level courses. Her advice to folks looking to enter the teaching field? “Be open to new opportunities…. You never know what new adventures await you.”
How did you get started in your field?
I started teaching in New York City and then in Colorado. Eventually I moved to San Diego to teach high school sciences and leadership. I have always been interested in science and leadership since I was in high school myself, having been part of my school’s student government. As a teacher, I loved the idea of teaching leadership to others but always struggled with teaching science and teaching leadership as two separate entities. I was always put into a position to choose one or the other.
Why did you choose this career field?
I was inspired by my high school biology teacher. Her enthusiasm and passion for teaching was contagious. I wanted to be like her and bring a love of science to other teenagers and decided that teaching and working with teens was where my heart and drive were. I became involved in the UC San Diego program when I coached a group of my students in a research program with UC San Diego and Scripps Research Institute and learned about the Global Environmental Program being developed at UC San Diego Extension. I thrive on instilling in my students a love for the world around them. Having the opportunity to integrate science and leadership and teach teens how to be empowered and care for the earth has been a dream of my career.
What do most enjoy about your job?
I love teenagers, I love science and I love teaching. Seeing students learn to appreciate science and not fear it — and helping them take a leadership role in caring for the earth they will inherit — encourages my belief the environment will be saved.
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field?
Be open to new opportunities. I left my classroom career to work on this program. You never know what new adventures await you. Teaching is hard work, yet very rewarding. Many do not realize the impact they are having on these young minds. When I think back to which of my teachers have left lasting impressions on me, I wonder which of my students will remember a kind word, a funny story or an empowering quote they heard in my classroom.
How is your field changing? What new skills do people need to stay current?
Technology is infiltrating the classroom. There was a time when cell phones were not permitted. Now many classrooms use those devices for students to do research and connect with the world. Obviously computers, Google and social media have changed the way students and teachers view the world and each other. Staying in tune with current trends and being able to talk to students in their language and on their level are critical to being a successful teacher.
Why do you teach for Extension?
I work for Extension because of the programming, the team and what I continue to learn about myself. Working with researchers from University of Arizona, University of Hawai'i and Scripps Institution of Oceanography keeps me current on what is happening in the world of environmental science. Working with students of all diversities and socioeconomic backgrounds reminds me that anyone can step out of the place they are currently in and look towards a brighter future and a stronger self. I love seeing the students engaged with the researchers, hearing their stories and bonding as a team throughout the program.
Learn more about Academic Connections and discover all of the amazing programs that we offer through our Pre-College area of interest.
Updated January 2020