Faculty Profile: Steve Bonnar, Upper School Physics Teacher
December 18, 2019
Tell us about your path to Léman.
I grew up in Scotland. I have a degree in applied sports sciences from Edinburgh University. I was a swimmer in my youth. I swam for Scotland and trained for the Commonwealth Games. After that, I decided to go into teaching, and I grew to love it. I was a PE teacher for seven years in London and Qatar and then I decided I’d like to teach science as well because that’s what I got my degree in. I was at Qatar International School for three years and then I taught physics and chemistry at Jumeirah College in Dubai for nine years. I have worked in the US quite a lot over the years in various summer camps in upstate New York and Massachusetts, so this is not my first time living here.
I've been lucky enough to travel around a lot in the US and I've been to 35 states. I decided I wanted to move to the US and so I applied for this job last spring and was excited when I got it.
You’ve traveled all around the world and taught in many different places. How does that influence you as an educator?
I’ve traveled to more than 40 countries because in the Middle East it’s easy to go from place to place. Also, when I was living in Scotland, all of Europe was on my doorstep. And that experience has been eye-opening. Also, I've taught in schools where the students were very, very low income and I've taught billionaire's children. Their culture and their background can be different for so many different reasons. It’s helpful to keep that in mind in order to meet a student where they are and to help them understand what you’re trying to teach them.
What drew you to teaching?
Most of my earlier jobs were teaching swimming and sports, and then I decided I wanted to move on to teaching science and I absolutely loved it. I loved the interactions. You never have the same day twice. And some of the students are brilliant. Some of the colleagues you work with are fantastic. Within teaching, there's a lot of diversification. You can be a department head. You can be more department focused person within your subject. I was a pastoral leader in Dubai where I oversaw 200 students from age 11 to age 16. It was amazing to see them grow up.
What is your educational philosophy?
Learning isn't something that you finish. And even as a person, you're continually changing so constantly. The way I teach changes all the time, depending on who's in front of me and what I know and some new tricks or tips I've learned over time.
It is also important to try to spark everyone's interest. And if students are enthusiastic about the subject matter, you can help them apply it in different ways. For instance, if they want to go to college to study medicine, there is a lot of physics and chemistry you can apply directly to that. If I have a student with an interest in architecture, I will talk to them about structure, forces, and materials. If I have a student who feels they aren’t as interested in physics I might try to spark their interest with magic tricks that happen to have a scientific explanation. I try to make it practical and fun.
How do you prepare your students for IB classes?
I teach 10th graders, so they are not yet in IB classes, however, I try and prepare them for the challenges they will face when they move into the IB. You've got to gear up, get the tools, get the skills, get the knowledge to face IB because it is really challenging and can be overwhelming if you're not ready for it. If you jump on a running treadmill and you're not running a little, you will fall behind because it’s so much work. I try to give them the skills to pull their own socks up a little bit.
I think the more students must do themselves in terms of figuring things out, the better. I will give them the skills to help them, but they must figure things out for themselves because ultimately that is what they’ll have to do during the rest of their life. Everyone learns in different ways, so I try and prepare them as well as I can.
What are your impressions of Léman as first-year teacher?
I love it. The department I work with is great and very hardworking and supportive. They all want to do a good job for the students. This is such a lovely community to work with and the students are nice kids and very smart. I’m also leading the astronomy club, which has been a great experience. Astronomy is a good gateway to getting kids interested in science because they can’t help but be blown away by what they see through a telescope. I also have a solar scope so next we’re going to try taking pictures of the sun.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I do a lot of astrophotography myself and I love to travel and be outdoors. I live in Brooklyn and have been spending a lot of time in Prospect Park where the wildlife is incredible. I also love to visit national parks. I’ll be visiting Arcadia National Park in March and I’m really looking forward to that.