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Karen McPhaul Featured in MoCo360 - Extraordinary Educators From Montgomery County

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Karen McPhaul Featured in MoCo360 - Extraordinary Educators From Montgomery County
By Caralee Adams at MoCo360
Karen McPhaul

Karen McPhaul, Bullis. Credit: Skip Brown, MoCo360.

After 30 years of teaching at Cold Spring Elementary School in Potomac, Karen McPhaul was set to retire. Then a former student who was a senior at Bullis School stopped by to tell her about a job opening for a seventh grade science teacher at the nearby private school.

“He said, ‘Mrs. McPhaul, you still have some magic in you. Go on and try that interview,’ ” recalls McPhaul, who was also nudged by a colleague to apply before getting the job at Bullis in 2018. “That opened a new chapter.” 

McPhaul taught all subjects in upper elementary school, but says she was long intrigued by science and liked the challenge of making seventh grade a happy place for her students.

Profiles of scientists from diverse backgrounds hang around her classroom alongside mini-posters students made of themselves with their aspirations. Lillian Lee, an eighth grader at Bullis, says McPhaul’s class made her want to become a scientist. “From her believing in her students to pushing us, to all the crazy, action-packed labs, it’s very exciting and entertaining,” Lillian says.

McPhaul says she embraces the John Keats quote that “nothing is real until it is experienced” and tries to make science come alive with hands-on activities and games. In her forensics unit, McPhaul turns her classroom into a simulated crime scene and then does biology labs. Sometimes kids pretend they are a certain cell organelle and have “speed dating” conversations with “cell pickup lines” to learn about each other. In March, she was the academic lead on a trip to the Florida Keys with 70 students to study marine biology.


→ Read the full article at MoCo360: Meet six extraordinary educators from Montgomery County