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Pryde’s Sixteen-Year Teaching Career at Andover Began With Discovery of Love for Physics

Though Kathleen Pryde, Chair of the Physics Department, did not stumble upon physics until her mid thirties, it was love at first sight. Pryde never aspired to teach physics as a child. According to Pryde, her high school in Utah did not even offer physics. After working full-time at a hardware store, Pryde decided to further her education, and first attended college at the age of 32. “It was [the] time. I decided that I need more of a challenge and that there must be more to life,” Pryde said. “College was a little bit scary, but I was ready for a challenge,” said Pryde. “My husband went to college while I worked, so I put him through college. Then it turned around and he put me through college.” Pryde originally studied for a degree in physical therapy. “I was doing a lot of volunteering at homes for the elderly and I wanted to work in that area but I wasn’t sure how exactly [to do that],” said Pryde. “I’d also been to a physical therapist myself and talked to them about it, and there’s a lot of physical therapy that elderly people need.” Pryde first encountered physics when she took the class as a requirement. The class influenced her to rethink her career path. “I fell in love with physics, so I decided to major in physics and get my bachelor degree,” said Pryde. “I like being able to solve a problem and see it through to the end,” Pryde said. The same challenge drew her to teaching, an area in which she takes a similar approach. To Pryde, each class is different because of student individuality. After she graduated from college, Pryde and her husband wanted to try something different. They both applied to join the U.S. Peace Corps, a program that allows college graduates to assist developing countries in various ways. “I thought that the Peace Corps was a way to give back and do something for people who didn’t have as much. I don’t remember why I really wanted to go to Africa, but of all the options, Malawi interested me the most,” said Pryde. Pryde taught her first class in Malawi and continued to teach at that school for two years. At the end of the Peace Corps tour, Pryde knew that she wanted to make a career in education, so she started studying for a teaching certificate in Boston. “The school I was at had about a hundred kids in a classroom with about seven textbooks. I learned what it’s like to be in a developing country and teach without textbooks, and I learned how to think about the world,” said Pryde. In 1993, Andover’s then Dean of Faculty met Pryde at a job fair in Boston and encouraged her to apply for an open teaching position. Pryde has now been teaching at Andover for sixteen years. This year, she will have served as a house counselor in Nathan Hale, a Junior girls dorm, for 15 years and will end her sixth and final year as department chair of the Physics department. “I really love living with ninth grade girls,” said Pryde. “I just love their energy. They’re very happy and energetic.” Pryde said that she has made great connections with many of the girls in her dormitory over the years and feels a strong bond with them. “There was a group of three who came back for their tenth reunion last June. They came in and we had some coffee and cookies and chatted and it was really fun,” said Pryde. “They go away and go everywhere in the world, so it was nice for them to come back,” she continued. “Andover is a great and happy place,” said Pryde. “I really have been very lucky to work here and I really enjoy the students and working with the faculty in such a positive environment.” “What I enjoy most about teaching is the challenge of getting the students to participate, and not having me just talking but figuring out how to have a classroom conversation,” said Pryde. “My goal is to make sure that students won’t end their physics course afraid of physics,” she continued. “So many students bring that fear and I hope that I can dispel that, that’s the main thing.” Pryde said that she loves teaching her physics classes every day and plans to continue doing so for as long as possible. “I’m toward the end of my career, so I’m just enjoying doing what I’m doing,” said Pryde. Pryde and her husband returned to Malawi in 2002, where they volunteered at an orphanage and revisited the school Pryde taught at. “It was just really involving, intense, and interesting, and even though it’s been twenty years I’m still very interested.”