Hagler Reaches Beyond Textbook Material to Engage Students

As Biology 560 students filed into the classroom, Jeremiah Hagler pulled up an article from “Science” magazine about the effects of grassland predators on their ecosystem to illustrate the real-life application of the concepts students had learned.

Now in his 14th year at Andover, Hagler, Instructor and Chair in Biology and Head of the Division of Natural Sciences, has taught courses ranging from Biology 100 to the Biology 560/570/580 sequence, which are advanced classes for Uppers and Seniors.

Though Hagler teaches these courses with firm dedication to real-life application, his talents seem to lie at the crossroads of multiple disciplines. In his time here, he has created three interdisciplinary courses with the Department of History and Social Science, Graham House and the Peabody Museum.

“Dr. Hagler has a real interest in working across departments. He is a really creative thinker with great enthusiasm for everything. He really loves new ideas [and] loves to combine subjects to create something different,” said Marcelle Doheny, Instructor in History and Social Science, who teaches the interdisciplinary course in Biology and History, “Disease and Medicine in the United States,” with Hagler.

Keith Robinson, Instructor in Biology, said that the Biology Department has been trying to incorporate more interdisciplinary work into its courses since Hagler became the Department Chair in 2010.

“I think Hagler has helped pave the way for other biology teachers to come up with their own interdisciplinary courses. And it seems that kids really enjoy these courses—they have a flavor to them that is different from a yearlong course in just biology,” Robinson said.

Before coming to Andover, Hagler worked at the Harvard University Molecular and Cellular Biology Research Lab as a postdoctoral fellow. According to Hagler, working in a lab is extremely time-intensive, demanding up to 80 hours every week. He said that when he and his wife had a set of triplets in 1998, devoting that much time to work became difficult.

“Around this time, I came across an advertisement in ‘Science’ magazine for a visiting science position at PA, so I decided to use this opportunity to make a shift out of hard science and try teaching,” he said.

Hagler became part of the Andover community in 2000 as a Visiting Scholar in Science, running the Biology Independent Research elective for five years before becoming a full-time faculty member.

“I love sharing my enthusiasm in biology with the kids. Interacting with students, getting them to really think about issues in science, how to approach the world, how to look at the world—it’s great fun,” Hagler said.

Hagler said he particularly loves watching his students mature throughout their four years at Andover.

“What Phillips Academy does really well is laying the ground for the kids to successfully mature without being sidetracked,” said Hagler.

“We don’t hold [the students’] hands and tell [them] what to do at all steps of the way. We guide [them]. We function as parents, but one step removed, and I think this is actually an ideal arrangement that allows students to bloom,” he continued.

Hagler enjoys teaching both Biology 100 and Biology 560. “I love teaching 9th graders. They’re funny, open-minded, excited about the world and kind of goofy, and I’m a little goofy, so it works pretty well,” he said.

“[Biology] 560 students are top-notch, pretty high-performing science students. You can get them to learn a lot of stuff, really explore the world, really learn some deeper concepts about how biology or how science works, which you might not be able to teach to Bio 100 students,” Hagler said.

While watching each of his own daughters Alexia, Michaela and Samantha Hagler, all Class of 2016, experience their own, special versions of Andover life, Hagler has gained an insight into the school that he could not acquire as a faculty member.

Hagler said that he noticed the variability in teaching styles of faculty at the school, both throughout the school and within each department.

“I see three students simultaneously going through the system with three different teachers in all of the departments, so I have seen a huge cross section of what happens at this school. Is the [variability] always great? Not necessarily, but every experience my kids have is unique and valuable,” he said.

Although Hagler believes that Andover provides an exciting and nurturing environment for students, he sometimes finds the academic workload concerning.

“If I could compare my kids’ high school experiences with my own high school experience, [mine] was a lot of fun, [with] marching band, pep rallies and a lot of sports games,” he said.

“This school is more study-serious. Although that is actually good in the long run, the [students] are still teenagers and the workload could lighten up a little bit,” he continued.

Aside from his duties as a teacher, Hagler coaches Girls JV Basketball in the winter and officiates track meets in the spring. He and his wife live in America House, a Junior boys dorm, with their triplet daughters.