Faculty Farewells: Christine Leo journeys into a different element

Lucy Peck, Staff Writer

When Alara Yilmaz (10) was confused about stoichiometry, she scheduled a meeting with Upper Division (UD) science teacher Dr. Christine Leo, her chemistry teacher, she said. “She explained the topic to me from start to finish and clarified all of my confusions,” she said. “She was always a patient teacher and made sure everyone understood before moving on.”

Leo will leave the school after teaching chemistry for 12 years. After leaving the school, Leo plans to spend more time with her children, she said. “I’m excited to be more present in my kids’ lives.”

While teaching at the school, Leo devoted a lot of time to the job so it was difficult to balance that with spending time with her children, she said. She is going to focus on her children for a bit and then figure out a new job after that, which could be teaching or something entirely new, she said.

Leo decided to pursue teaching in graduate school, she said. Her favorite aspect of graduate school was interacting with students, which led her to look for teaching jobs at the high school level, she said.

She began to work at the school in 2013, she said. Her interview to teach chemistry was her first job interview and her first job, she said. “The rest is history.”

Over her 12 years at the school, Leo has most enjoyed learning new things from other teachers and from students, she said. “I learned how to be a teacher and learned from really wonderful people.”

Leo has also enjoyed getting to know students and advisees and watching them grow, she said. “I had some advisees from freshman year to senior year, and seeing them grow over the long term and turn into adults that will enter the world was a cool experience for me.”

Leo’s advisees loved having her as an advisor, Daphne Tsai (10) said. “When we were in advisory, she would tell us about her family and about her newest daughter, Vera,” she said. “Dr. Leo was always a nice and helpful advisor who was happy about my successes.”

Her patient way of teaching was very helpful, Aamri Sareen (10) said. “I would come to her office hours every month and she would walk through every topic we had learned,” she said. “I remember her spending 15 minutes going over polarity and intermolecular forces when I was confused.”

Leo’s favorite part about teaching chemistry was the latitude that the school provides, she said. “I had the freedom and flexibility to feel out where the students were and be able to adjust accordingly.” She has also taught alongside amazing colleagues who initiate new ideas and inspire her, she said. 

UD science department chair Dr. Lisa Rosenblum said Leo’s colleagues will miss her dearly. “Dr Leo is an incredibly thoughtful teacher who cares deeply about her students and is not afraid to try new things in the classroom or lab, especially for the benefit of her students,” she said. “She has had a huge impact on the chemistry curriculum and the Science Research Program, and the Science Department will very much miss her.”

Leo will miss getting to know students and teaching chemistry, she said. This is especially notable because she is not going into another teaching job straight away, she said. “I’ll miss the students and my colleagues tremendously as well,” she said.