Sixth-grade science and social studies teacher, Erica Foley, didn’t always want to be a teacher. After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from the University of Maryland at College Park, Foley set her sails on becoming an environmental scientist. Her degree, from the college of agriculture, was highly specialized in natural resource management with an emphasis on Land and Water Resource Management. She gained experience in the field by working at a transportation and engineering company, which started out as part of an internship and turned into a full-time job as an environmental scientist. As part of her role, she was responsible for conducting wetland and forest stand delineations, monitoring wetland mitigation projects, and writing environmental assessment reports and environmental impact statements for public and private construction and transportation projects.
It wasn’t until she moved back to the Boston area that she realized teaching was in her career plan. While looking for work as an environmental scientist, she took a job substitute teaching, and soon learned that she loved it. She went on to get a master’s in Education from UMASS Boston.
If you weren’t a teacher, what other profession could you see yourself doing?
If I weren’t a teacher, I would probably have continued in my original field of work as an environmental scientist. I am also intrigued by the idea of being a park ranger, which also brings education and the environment together. I think it is important for people to connect with and to protect our natural environment.
Is there someone who inspired you to teach?
My parents inspired and taught me to be politically involved and active especially with environmental issues. This led me to my degree in natural resource management. My father was also a high school biology teacher in the Boston Public Schools. My high school biology and marine biology teacher, Marsha Roy, was one of my favorite and most encouraging teachers in high school. My college advisor, Dr. Patrick Kangas was an enormous influence because he gave his students multiple opportunities with internships, travel, and research. Because of Dr. Kangas, I went to Brazil twice with groups of students to research the impact of development on mangrove forests, conduct water quality studies on the impact of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, and search for undiscovered species of insects in the rainforest.
Do your students inspire you?
My students inspire me every day. They always have new questions, ideas, perspectives, and different personalities that make going to school fun and exciting. How I approach a new lesson may evolve as I learn what works and doesn’t work as the day unfolds.