Ms WatkinsWhere are you from?
I’m from Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

What do you like most about your country?
What I love about the U.S. is that there are so many different climates. Mainly because it’s a massive piece of land and the odds of the humidity being the same all the way across is pretty much zero. But drive through Arizona and Utah, to see the incredible land formations. And of course California along highway 1. We have (nearly) unbeatable sea cliff views. Picture a thunderingly tall redwood forest right up to the edge of cliff that drops hundreds of feet to the crashing Pacific. Even sea birds know it’s amazing.

Where you an A student?
When I was in school, I would often get in trouble for reading a book during class. I perfected the technique of walking through crowded halls with my nose in a book, stepping over backpacks and avoiding walls (mostly). I was fascinated with but terrible in math in elementary school, middle school, and high school. I was often the lowest in my class. I loved the idea of equations to explain physical phenomenon, and liked reading about Einstein, but couldn’t progress past that. I loved science but I wasn’t successful when it met with math, like in chemistry or physics.
I excelled in music, where I was an award-winning trumpet player (and even was on public television!), and loved home-ec and woodshop and typing (on typewriters! I still love typewriters to this day, and have one at home that I type on). I also loved PE and English, but I had trouble organising my thoughts to get good grades with essays.
Ultimately, bad classroom experiences coupled with family difficulties left me unhappy at high school and I left at 16 with an exit exam and began going to a local community college. I took classes in anything and everything I was interested in: creative writing, world literature, life drawing, ceramics, biology courses where we studied wetlands and creatures in Mexico and studied land formations in Death Valley, horseback riding, agricultural science, pre-veterinary classes, etc.
Within a year there or so I had a class with an incredible English teacher, who changed everything I thought I knew about school. It was exciting, and I started drawing pictures alongside my notes to help me understand, which, I learned, led to better retention and made it more fun to look at my notes later. I nearly failed one of his tests and wrote random stories and song lyrics on the test instead of answers, but he graded it as if I meant to write those stories on purpose. He left comments on how I could have applied those stories to answer the questions. I got a C on that test. I had never met a teacher like that before.
The next year I had a ridiculously funny history teacher (who also said very bad words and lied to us all the time and then told us he lied), and my grades across all subjects were getting higher. I decided that gosh darnit, I can also be good at math. I started with an online high school level algebra class and was like I CAN DO THIS. I worked on problems sometimes until 3am, sitting crosslegged on the floor in front of my laptop’s glowing screen, and scribbled all over my notebooks with equations. I got my first A in math ever in my life. I was stunned.
The next year I had an amazing trigonometry teacher. I studied his notes, practiced and practiced, and went to his study halls anytime I didn’t understand something. By the end of the term I was #1 in his class out of 90 adults. I took his next level class that summer, pre calculus, and he let me prepare and teach a lesson, something he told me he had never done before. He even said I inspired HIM. Again, I was stunned. Were these teachers? I had never had teachers like this before. I continued on with Calculus the next year, etc.
Those years at community college changed everything I thought I knew about myself.

What was your dream job when you were a youngster?
My first dream job was to be a cat. Like an actual cat. Then I wanted to be an alarm salesman (I drew a picture of me going house to house selling house alarms. My parents had an alarm business at the time). Then I wanted to be a princess and do nothing all day. Then I wanted to be a veterinarian. Now I’d like to help fund education in countries where it’s needed/wanted by funding to train local teachers and getting them supplies like books and computers. And I personally want to keep exploring math, science, and human behaviour.

When you have one day off at home, how would you spend it?
Researching something that’s been on my mind, going for a bike ride, playing guitar, preparing for school lessons, grading student work, etc.

How would you network and meet new friends in a new country?
I joined Meetup and went to a few gatherings. I also sometimes meet and connect with people when I’m out and about, which maybe leads to two or three new connections a year. It’s usually quite difficult to wiggle yourself into established friend groups in other countries, and the first few years here were incredibly lonely.

How would you describe Lund in three words?
Cute, Swedish, cobblestones.

How would you describe Sweden in one word?

What is your role at the IESL?
I’m currently a 6th grade science and English teacher, but my qualification in California allows me to teach all subjects. At IES I’ve taught aesthetics, textiles, math, English, and science. I do not teach all of them equally well.

What are your challenges at IESL? 
Climbing the stairs, Skåne weather.

Give three good advices to your students.
1. When you easily get an answer right, you’re probably not learning- you’re just writing down what you already know. Which is great, but then it’s time to move on. When you fail, and then look at why you failed and try to figure out a way to a correct answer, THATS when you’re learning and growing and becoming stronger. Correct answers just show that you know the answer. Failing shows you “AHA, here’s something I don’t already know. This is an area I can become stronger in.” Then, when you start to get THOSE answers right, it’s time to move on to something else you don’t yet know. A good way to do this is to find something else you fail at, like even harder math problems, more complicated language, or walking.
2. There is never a time when it’s “too late” for you. You can be 99 years old and start to learn something new. No one has become a veterinarian at 100 years old? Be the first. Someone has to be the first! It might as well be you.
3. You’re just as valuable as a king, just as valuable as your strange classmate, and just as valuable as a homeless person. Treat everyone with the same kindness and respect. Life is hard for everyone, including insects.

What do you prefer to eat?
I love spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce. Also watermelon and strawberries and blueberries and ALL THE FRUITS

You will be staying one month on a deserted island. You may bring one person and two items. Who and what would that be?
I’ll bring someone who can build awesome treehouses, and I’ll bring a huge carton of tree house building supplies, and a box of cats.

What is the most peculiar thing you have done?
I lived in a yoga ashram for a year. I also lost my last baby tooth in 10th grade.

What sport would you never practice?
Hunger games.

What TV show(s) are you a bit embarrassed to tell that you are watching?
Say Yes to the Dress. It’s horrible. And CSI Miami. So cringe.


Presenting Ms Watkins

5 thoughts on “Presenting Ms Watkins

  • I learned so much about my daughter by reading this article. A big thank you to the PTA at Lund. My daughter is one who has taken her own advice. She started late in her academic achievements, but shows that one can do anything if you put your attention, time and heart to a task. I am so proud of her. She is also someone who is helping to change this world for the better by teaching her wonderful students, whom she talks about all the time, and looking beyond at helping other countries and their lack of teachers. She exemplifies an important philosophy – Life is the school, Love is the lesson!

  • Ms Watkins – I totally love your presentation! You are such an inspiration and I am very grateful that Mia has the privilege to have you as her mentor this year.

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