Passion for science, teaching pays off



August 19, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Aubry Keller sees several similarities between Iola and her native Pittsburg.
“It seems like they both have the same types of homes,” she said. “Pittsburg has a nice strip downtown. Iola has a nice downtown, maybe even a little better.”
The familiarity extends beyond the scenery.
Keller recalled her first visit to Iola over the summer, when she arrived to interview for a teaching position at Iola High School.
“When I did my interview, I came an hour early and drove around town to get a feel,” she recalled. “I turned the corner, and a guy in the truck waved at me. I’m like, ‘Yes, this is exactly the kind of place I want to be.’ It’s a very friendly town, something I looked for.”
The rest of the pieces fell into place, and Keller — who celebrates her 23rd birthday Thursday — greets her students next week as an IHS biology and anatomy and physiology instructor. She’ll teach biology to ninth-graders; anatomy and physiology to 11th- and 12th-graders.

KELLER SEEMED to know all along a teaching career beckoned, even as she went to college to become a physical therapist.
“My mom’s a nurse,” she said. “I used to go to work with her sometimes as a child. The human body itself, and disease, interested me.”
As part of her schooling, Keller shadowed physical therapists, “and it was all right,” she recalled. “I liked getting to help people with mobility issues and trying to teach them how to regain their motor skills, which was a kind of teaching.
“But it’s not this,” Keller said, motioning to her classroom. “It’s not impacting the lives of kids and molding them for the future. That’s really what I knew in my heart I wanted to do.”
Keller recalled forcing her two younger siblings to play school with her. She would write up lesson plans for math and English assignments.
She was in the first grade.
“I always liked school and admired my teachers,” Keller said. “As I got older, my teachers would point out my personality traits, how I had plenty of patience and enjoyed working with others.”
Fortunately, the basic courses for becoming a physical therapist and teaching biology are remarkably similar, she noted with a laugh.
“It didn’t take any longer to complete my degree.”

KELLER earned her bachelor’s of science degree in education at Pittsburg State University in May, with an emphasis in biology.
She applied for a few teaching positions out of school, but not Iola.
“I was on my lunch break one day and Stacey (Fager, IHS principal) called me and said the school had sent them my information.”
That led to Keller’s successful interview, and her fateful drive around town.
“What’s meant to be is what’s meant to be,” she said. “This is where I’m supposed to be.”

OUTSIDE the classroom, Keller is more often than not also outside her home.
“I’m very outdoors-oriented,” she said. “I love to fish. This is great knowing I can drive five minutes and be at the Neosho (River) and catfish. That’s one of my favorite things.”
Keller also is an avid hunter. She bought her own bow a year ago.
“I’m still not quite good enough to take it out and hunt,” she said. “My goal is to be out there this season.”

KELLER is eager for school to start, and to become more familiar with her colleagues.
“I feel very well supported here,” she said. “Everybody’s been helpful. I know I can ask questions, and get answers. I feel like I’m already part of the team.”