The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
Faculty Feature: Ms. Kerry Venchus

Math Teacher Kerry Venchus

Bryan Soh ’18 interviewed High School Math Teacher Ms. Kerry Venchus, whose contributions to TASIS extend well beyond the classroom. Ms. Venchus has helped her AP Calculus students perform extraordinarily well on their exams in recent years and was the 2017 recipient of the Khan-Page Master Teacher Award.

When did you start at TASIS, what classes do you teach, and what else are you involved with at TASIS?
I started at TASIS in 2009, and I teach Math 1 Advanced, Math 2 Extended, and AP Calculus.

I lead the Global Service Program trip to Cambodia, run a Technology Academy for high school teachers, am a dorm parent in Certenago, coach kickboxing, teach self-defense, co-lead the Faculty Advisory Committee, and am involved with a few other committees.

Can you please describe your educational background and your career in education prior to TASIS?
I was a Math major at Wheaton College (Massachusetts), and I minored in Spanish and Education. I then got my master’s in Curriculum and Instructional Technology while I was teaching at my first school. I taught at two public schools in the suburbs of Boston before coming to TASIS.

Can you briefly describe your teaching philosophy?
I encourage my students to develop a “growth” mindset instead of a “fixed” mindset, and I also believe in challenging students to become problem solvers and critical thinkers. I’m not usually someone who stands at the board and gives the answers. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely stand at the board, give examples, and answer questions, but I prefer for students to discover answers on their own.

I like to create high standards and then help students reach them. I also hope that I’m helping students see “the big picture”—that there’s more to life than just success in school and that being a good person who is mindful, kind, and honest is important as well.

What do you like most about working at TASIS?
I love lots of things about working at TASIS. One thing that drew me to the school, though, is the fact that there are students from all around the world who come here and learn together in a stunning environment. I’m grateful for the scenic views every day, and I really think they help lift people’s spirits.

The school culture here helps break down barriers that might be formed from previous prejudices. You get to see that people are people, and while we are all individuals, we also share many traits. One of the reasons I came here was Mrs. Fleming’s philosophy of creating internationally minded people and bringing them together to create a better world. That really resonated within me, and I like that it is a focus of the School. I also love that the School is invested in both global and local service.

What would you say are some of your biggest successes at TASIS?
I think it is really hard to measure success as a teacher because you don’t really know how you’ve impacted a student’s life unless they come back and tell you later. But I have a lot of passions, and I hope I’m making a difference for people.

I like to create high standards and then help students reach them.

I’m really passionate about the Service Learning Program and love that I get to do that here. I’m passionate about my teaching philosophy: trying to get students to be independent learners, to be lifelong learners, to be collaborative, to think critically, and to be good people. I’m also really passionate about teaching self-defense to help empower the women here, which is something that matters a lot. I appreciate that TASIS has gotten behind empowering women. I hope the self defense program will continue to progress and become a part of our school culture.

I also love that I get to teach technology to teachers. I appreciate that the School allows me to take on all these different roles.

In which of these programs do you think you have had the most success, based on feedback or any other ways that you want to measure success?
The Global Service Program has had much positive feedback from students. Many have said it changed their lives, which is definitely the best thing you can hear: that you’ve helped a student see the world differently or see that there are problems in the world where people need help. So to know you have helped students see the “light”—that’s a measure of success.

I would love to say that my greatest success is incorporating the self-defense program, but that’s not fully realized. So it’s not quite a success yet, but once the program is a little more embedded into life at TASIS, I hope it will be considered a success. It is super important to help empower women.

I was also interviewed before for my AP Calculus students’ grades, but that’s really my students’ success, not mine. Ultimately, I feel that you have to ask other people for the answer to this question because it is hard to gauge success. But if I have to pick something, I suppose my greatest success—and this might be kind of a stretch—is that I have directly or indirectly helped many teachers and students through all of my roles.

Out of all the Academic Travel trips you have been on, which has been the most enjoyable and why?
This is also a hard question because there have been parts of every single trip that I have liked. First of all, that is another amazing component of the School. I do love that we get to travel with students and learn things together. So for me, because I’m a math teacher and there is no math travel trip, I get to go somewhere different each time. I’ve learned so much as an adult about different places that I’d only read about in textbooks as a student.

I love skiing. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. So the fact that I just got to go skiing for a week was amazing. I also co-led a trip where we helped students learn more about our environmental footprint, and that was great because it’s something I care a lot about. We went to a farm and learned about sustainable living and how people are impacting the environment. I really enjoyed that trip, but I feel like I can’t answer this question either—because I’ve been here a while and have never repeated a trip, so I’ve been on 16 different trips in eight years!

If you could teach any other class or work in another part of the faculty for one day, which would it be and why?
I love cooking. But cooking for 400 people would be stressful. I would love to cook for a day for other people, but the kitchen staff works unbelievably hard, and we have no idea what they’re doing behind the scenes. They just magically produce all this food for all of us everyday and it’s usually delicious.

As for teaching a class, I think I would like to teach PE. I love playing sports. I look out my classroom sometimes and see students playing softball or basketball or soccer and think, “I’d love to go run around and play in a game with students.” So maybe that, but obviously there is more to teaching PE than joining in games! I’m not really qualified to teach anything else, except self-defense.

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