Getting to Know Mrs. Abramson


Mrs. Abramson has been teaching at Rye High School for 21 years. She currently teaches AP Biology and is the Science Department Coordinator for the district. As someone who has Mrs. Abramson for AP Bio, I can say that she cares deeply about her students and is passionate about teaching. This is a lightly edited transcript of our interview. 

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: Oh, do I have spare time? (Laughs). I like to hang out with my kids, crochet, and I love to play games. Any kind of a board game, not a video game, but board games. Mrs. Paley introduced me to… (turns to Mrs. Paley) What was that one game that we played? That was really good. Oh, Ticket To Ride, I like! Oh, you can also put in there “The Poopy Game” (laughs). I like Quirkle, I like Bananagrams, pretty much any game.

Q: When was the last time you laughed or someone made you laugh? What were the circumstances?

A: Well, yesterday, I didn’t get to sit down to have dinner with my kids because we were running around, but the night before my kids were singing Bohemian Rhapsody at dinner, and so I laughed at that. But I’ve got a good laugh story for you. So do you know Pranjal? Okay, so last year, in class, we were talking about something, I don’t remember what it was, but it was something about cell death, right? I think it’s when we were doing the immune system. And Pranjal’s like, “You can’t get sick if you’re dead.” And I just thought that was the funniest thing, I laughed so hard, and that kind of became the running joke in class: “You can’t get sick if you’re dead.”

Q: When and how did you know you wanted to become a teacher?

A: When I was in high school. I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher; I don’t know how I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but when I took biology, that’s when I was like: I love biology, I want to be a biology teacher. And I think it’s also because I loved my high school biology teacher. Mrs. Anderson was her name.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your career path and how you got to where you are now?

A:  So, I’ve always been a teacher, I’ve never been anything else. I graduated college and I started teaching right away so I was like, 22. I taught middle school for three years, and then I taught high school for one year in a different district. But that was the district that I graduated high school from, so I thought maybe I should go someplace else and try to see what different places are like. So that’s when I started working here, and then here I taught Chemistry, Earth Science, and Living Environment. Then maybe ten years ago I started teaching AP Bio because the person who was teaching it was going to retire. About ten years ago, I also became the Department Coordinator because the person who was the Department Coordinator retired, and so, they needed somebody to do it, so I did it (laughs).

Q: Besides teaching, what is something you are passionate about?

A: I think spending time with my family and trying to create memories for my kids to make sure that I’m there for them. I am also passionate about having family dinners. I think it’s important.

Q: What is something that motivates you?

A: I think if I get a little success, then that motivates me to go try more and more. If it’s first time that I do something, and it’s maybe not perfect, but I have a little bit of success with it, I’ll try to get it better the next time and better the next time. So I think I like to be successful in things, so if I can try to do it a little better the next time, that motivates me.

Q: What do you think of the news about the Chinese scientist who has claimed to edit human embryos that were implanted and have resulted in two live births?

A: (Gasps with excitement) So, you know, the first thing I thought about when I heard about this was… Did you ever see Jurassic Park? Whatever the scientist’s name is, I know Steve Guttenburg was the actor, he says in the movie: “You spend so long trying to figure out if you could do it that you didn’t think about if you should do it,” or something like that. In some ways what the scientist says he did is so cool, like, oh my God could you imagine the science behind that? But then again, should this be something we are doing? That was my first thought about it.

Q: How has education changed since you started teaching?

A: Oh gosh, I’ve been teaching like 21 years, no… 26 years. I think that there is so much more pressure on kids to do more. I think that there’s definitely more pressure on kids to do more, to be in more classes, and to do more outside of school, and so, I think there’s that pressure piece for the kids. From my perspective as a teacher, I think there’s certainly more of a push to use technology in class. When I first started teaching it was on an overhead instead of a Smartboard. Sometimes I wonder if the technology is really the best way to do it. Are you just doing something using technology that you could’ve been doing without technology? Maybe without technology it would’ve been just as good, or maybe even more hands on and appropriate to what is being taught.

Q: Have any of your students gone on to fulfill science careers?

A: Oh, yeah. Some students have become nurses, some are doing engineering, others are doing coding stuff now. I can’t really think of specific people, but what’s really cool is sometimes I’ll get an email from a kid who’s in college, and  they’re freshmen, so they’ll be like, “Oh, I’m taking this class and this is what we did in AP Bio,” or, “Having done AP Bio, this really helped me.” So, that’s really cool. I think I probably get more emails back from kids when they’re in their freshmen year and first starting to take some science courses than when they’re out of college.

Q: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to your high school years?

A: Ah, If I could go back to high school… Well, I was a little up tight (laughs). God, it was so long ago… I’m sorry, this one’s the toughest one! You know, I actually liked high school. I played a sport, I worked, I had some great friends that I still have. Some of my best friends are people that I’ve known since high school. So, I don’t know if I would tell myself to do something different in high school. But, if I could go back to college, I think I would tell myself to relax a little bit, enjoy it more, and don’t be so worried about every single grade. I think I was more worried about that kind of stuff in college. When I was in high school there wasn’t this pressure to take so many APs… There was AP Bio, and I think that was it! You know, I mean maybe there was AP Calc, and I didn’t take AP Calc, and maybe there was an AP history class, but I don’t remember AP classes being a “thing.” When I was in high school there wasn’t this race to take every single high level course. I took ceramics for a semester every year in high school. And I’m not an art person. You’ll see that if I draw something in class, but I love ceramics. The fact that I felt that I could have the time in my day to do that makes me think my high school experience was very different from my own daughter’s experience right now.