Science teacher finally finds teaching after multiple jobs

May 23, 2018 — by Chelsea Leung and Jeffrey Xu

Science Teacher Jenny Garcia discusses her path to teaching.

When honors chemistry and physics teacher Jenny Garcia was a kid growing up in Palo Alto, her mom, who taught elementary school, would come home and tell stories about her students. Through twists and turns, these stories laid the groundwork for Garcia’s entering the profession.

“I thought it would be nice to have that type of relationship with a lot of different people,” Garcia said. “As it turns out, now I have 150 students instead of just 25 so I don’t know my students as well, but I do get a lot of energy off them every day.”

Originally, though, Garcia’s career path was not teaching. After graduating from Gunn High, Garcia studied biology at UC San Diego (UCSD) and originally wanted to pursue a PhD in nursing.

After graduating from UCSD, Garcia began working as a phlebotomist — someone who makes incisions on veins in a process called venipuncture — while taking night classes at Foothill College before applying to nursing school.

But after seeing a guidance counselor at UCSD, Garcia  realized that she had not received the proper nursing hands-on experience from her undergraduate courses and therefore continued her phlebotomist career instead.

After seven years of being a phlebotomist and then getting married, she decided that she did not want to continue with the work.

[Sick people] complain a lot,” Garcia said. “I’m not a Pollyanna, but it wears on you if folks are always sad. When you’re drawing blood and not necessarily seeing people get better, it’s a drag on your soul.”

She soon became part of a startup company that dealt with using shape memory alloys, a metal with interesting properties including flexibility, in a variety of unique applications such as the metal in eyeglass temples.

While working for the startup, Garcia gave birth to both of her children. Her older son Adam, now 29, is working in emergency management for a local company, and her younger son Zach, 27, works for Cruise Automotive as part of the development team.

She became the stock administrator at the startup but quickly realized that the workstyle wouldn’t suit her role as a parent.

“I loved the job and the people, but life in a startup doesn’t really complement life with a family,” Garcia said.

While on the search for yet another job opportunity, Garcia decided to go back to school to pursue her teaching credential right after giving birth to her second son and leaving the startup.

At first, she wanted to be a math teacher, but given her diverse science background of biology, chemistry and physics at UCSD, she decided to pursue a career in teaching science instead.

Garcia said that one of her main reasons for pursuing this career path was her AP Biology class at Gunn High. Garcia described the class as very difficult because it included many technical concepts and required students to “recall the concepts at the drop of a hat.”

Garcia recalls that her teacher did not allow her students to slack off at all. For example, once Garcia and her partner had to give a class presentation about blood typing. While they practiced during lunch, Garcia’s teacher, seeing what they were having trouble with, critiqued them. During the actual presentation, the teacher then asked Garcia and her partner multiple questions about the material they had struggled with during lunch.

“It was awkward, but we got through it and I learned not to always try to take the easy way out,” Garcia said. “This has benefitted me throughout life, and I hope to pass this on to my students as well.”

In order to satisfy the requirements for her credential, Garcia began student teaching under that same AP Biology teacher at Gunn High and was also a student teacher for one semester at Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto.

Then, 24 years ago, Garcia started teaching at Saratoga High, where she has taught Biology, Chemistry, Chemistry Honors and Physics ever since.

“I knew that teaching would be more conducive to a good family life,” Garcia said. “So that, along with my mother's example, convinced me I wanted to be a teacher. The rest is history!”