How school impacted my future

Storyteller: Joseph (he/him/his), 29, New York

Hi, my name is Joseph and I wish to share my STEM story,

When I was younger, I was always interested in what made things tick, I am still like this currently. I always asked myself questions like “What makes the clouds move? Why do we have day and night? What are those dots in the sky?”. To me, the world was full of mysteries that I always wanted to understand. When I was in school however I found it restrictive to learn science. I learned a lot while in school, but I felt that most of my learning was restricted to just remembering facts rather than experimenting with ideas. Doing experiments were always my favorite because I loved trying to figure things out and explore phenomena, but the outcome was often lackluster because we always had to perform our work in a specific way to move on with the lesson. I often found myself enjoying science on my own rather than in school.

My experiences changed when I got to high school. During high school, I took courses simply because the district required them. My love for science in school was reignited when I took Chemistry. My Chemistry teacher always tried to make the material relevant, and his experiments were always full of creativity. We still had to follow procedures and specific outlines due to regents exam preparation, but he allowed experimentation and encouraged us to play around with our experiments (safely of course). He always stayed after school to assist us with our work, and he always allowed time to experiment more with our labs. Chemistry class motivated me, but I soon realized that my math performance was subpar, mainly due to my lack of motivation to improve my performance back in elementary and middle school. I worked on my math skills with my math teacher, and I slowly began to rediscover my passion for math astronomy as well. My teacher always encouraged me and told me that grades do not matter as much, it does not measure my passion for science. By this time, I was sure that I wanted to become a scientist. I expressed how I wanted to pursue science in college and my math and chemistry teacher encouraged me to keep trying harder and persevere.

I was unsure on what I wanted to do when I first started college, there were so many options. I took a physics course, the professor and lectures reminded me of my experiences in chemistry class. He was enthusiastic and encouraged my curiosity. I always loved astronomy, it felt like I always found comfort and belonging, I want to discover everything I could about the cosmos. At that moment, I decided to pursue Physics, even if I felt unfit because of my math skills. My passion and curiosity for physics helped me persevere, the more I struggled the more I began to appreciate and understand the world around me. The course that solidified my passion in science was an independent study class I enrolled for. I was responsible for calibrating a telescope to do astronomy work. It was a learning experience for both me and my professor. One night, I discovered how to calibrate the telescope by doing my own research and I was able to identify the stars needed by naked eye. The telescope was successfully calibrated, which allowed me to observe our moon in detail, in addition to Andromeda galaxy, our neighboring galaxy. At that moment, I was able to complete a childhood goal of using a telescope. I was in awe at the sheer number of astronomical objects I was able to observe that night. Since then, I have been actively practicing math and physics and grew tremendously in the field. A lot of opportunities opened for me, and I was able to share my passion with others. I am now an educator, and a physicist, things I never thought I would be able to achieve when I was young. There is a quote that I have adopted stating “You do not need science, science needs you” and I have wired that into my mind when I educate students. Everyone can enjoy science and I wish to make science as fun as my chemistry teacher did. Our future innovators may be in front of us, it can be you! don’t let obstacles stop you. If something is taught in a boring way, make it fun for yourself and keep your fire burning! Thank you for allowing me to share my STEM story!


My Chemistry teacher always tried to make the material relevant, and his experiments were always full of creativity.