Biology teacher recalls her past teaching experiences in the old science classrooms

February 10, 2024 — by Kathy Wang
Photo by Kathy Wang
The current science building, which was established in 2002
Biology teacher Lisa Cochrum expresses her gratitude for the current science building as it is much more convenient to use.

Early in her teaching career here, Biology teacher Lisa Cochrum vividly recalls jumping over backpacks while shoving students out of her way, screaming “Fire! Fire, fire, fire!” as she sprinted towards a sudden eruption of blazing flames that two of her students had accidently started  in one of their labs. 

“[When I reach the students] I go ‘drop it [a plastic graduated cylinder], drop it, drop it!” I don’t know what she heard, but she began to pound it on the counter,” Cochrum said. “Little bits of flaming material go towards the paper on the wall, the electrical outlets and towards her backpack, her hair is down and I’m like ‘no, no, no!’” 

Cochrum, who has taught biology here for 31 years, notes this incident as one of the “closest times [she] has ever come to a dangerous situation.” She largely attributes it to the arrangement of the science classrooms at the time where lab tables faced the walls, leaving teachers unable to keep an eye on students.

Before the current science building was completed in 2002, science classes were located in the wing that is now the art building; the inadequate facilities contributed to various inconvenient incidents, including this memorable fire incident. 

After the hazardous fire incident in her old science classroom, Cochrum went door-to-door in the community to campaign for a bond measure to improve campus facilities, including the construction of a building solely dedicated to science classes. The bond measure was successful and ended up receiving a majority vote. 

The science building holds 10 classrooms with a long stretch of hallway in between, connecting them all. It houses every core science class in the school including Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Environmental science and is vastly larger than the old science wing

On the Back to School Night following the fire incident, Cochrum said that while expressing her gratitude toward the parents for supporting the bond measure [in the old science classrooms], she recalls a parent raising his hand saying “yeah, I’m getting wet” because a pipe had broken under the sink, drenching the parent. 

Additionally, Cochrum noted that every spring the old classroom — where holes littered the ceiling — would have thousands of termites fall onto the students’ desks.

“It was like a swarm [of termites] and we all came screaming out of my classroom and ran down the hallway,” Cochrum said. “So [in total] we had broken pipes, broken electrical, a swarm of bugs and I had this almost deadly fire. I cried [of happiness] when I heard the bond measure got passed and that we were going to use the back parking lot to build the new science building.”

When the science building was established, there was a debate between building it with one or two stories. However, it was later decided that a two-story building would be too inconvenient to carry heavy equipment, so they settled for a one story science building. Cochrum especially loves the indoor hallway that stretches between the science classrooms, as it allows for convenient transportation and storage of science equipment.

“I cannot even tell you how grateful I am for this building, and how grateful we are to the parents for funding it,” Cochrum said. “This building changed my entire career at Saratoga High and enabled our students to be the top scientists in the world because of it.” 

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