Checking in with Stefan Rinaldi

Upper School science teacher seeks to make an impact working with students


Walking around the room, Dr. Rinaldi lectures his AP Biology Class. Rinaldi, a new teacher at Hockaday, teaches AP Biology, AP Environmental Science and chemistry. He is glad to be back at Hockaday after his long-term substitute teaching. provided by Libby Hill

Caroline Petrikas, Staff Writer

Where did you go to college and what did you major in?

I went to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Gonzaga offers its Biology degree track students a research option with distinction upon graduation. Essentially I had to complete a research project and then present it to our faculty, similar to a Master’s defense and essentially my degree was contingent upon fulfilling those requirements. It was a degree in Biology, but with distinction or honors. so not just a regular Bachelor’s degree in my mind, but something I could be proud of given my time at Gonzaga. 

Why did you decide to come to Hockaday?

The culture of the school, the spirit of the independent learning process, the guiding principles we are trying to instill in our girls that you can teach yourself anything if you are internally motivated and work with your peers is what really drew me to Hockaday. For years when I was working at Cistercian, I told myself if I got the opportunity to come back here, I would jump on it. It’s just the spirit of the school and the academic environment in that all of the pressure is not put on the teacher to ensure that the students are achieving the goals that they want. It’s that as much as you are motivated, you can really see the success of each individual student and monitor and track it — it’s tangible. It’s really just a positive environment in the classroom — everyone wants to learn, everyone wants to grow. It’s the perfect place for a teacher. 

Why did you decide to teach? 

I was kind of soured by the business model that science has now become in private industry, the amount of stress they put on scientists. The fact that you have deadlines for research, and the amount of time and effort you put into science is not fulfilling in the sense that I’m not imparting any knowledge on anyone, I’m just gaining it myself and then sending it out to someone. With teaching, I literally get to positively impact anywhere from 75 to 100 students per year and you build relationships with those students and as you move on and they go to college, you can still help them or provide them guidance or advice. For me, it’s always about imparting knowledge or future advice on students. I grew up lower class so I didn’t always have a college counselor or teachers who really cared about my wellbeing or future, so now that I have gotten older, I’ve started to realize more that I wish I had those resources available to me. As a teacher, it’s not just that I walk into the classroom and provide you knowledge. It’s not a black-and-white relationship for me as an educator. I’m your teacher, your mentor, your advisor if you need me to be. Students should feel like they can talk to their teachers. We’re not robots and it’s important that we have trust between the two and that you start to grow a bond with your classes. At the end of the day, I want you to enjoy coming to my class. 

How has Hockaday positively affected you?

There’s less of a burden on a teacher to display class management. I don’t have to be as focused on organization of the class overall or managing the students’ tasks. On a daily basis, it’s more of a free learning environment — what questions do you have? How can I help you with this material? Everything is always a question then answer, and if I don’t have the answer I’ll lead you to where it is. It’s a different classroom environment. In terms of a day-to-day basis, my life feels much less stressful because I can trust the girls are going to do everything that they can to teach themselves and if they don’t have access to all the information, all I have to do is provide it for them and they will go through that learning process on their own. I have more trust in the student and that they will do what they need to do to be successful so I can kind of take a deep breath.