Cori Starr knew she wanted to be a teacher in the third grade. When she graduated high school, the only question was, what would she teach? She began her studies at Cal State Hayward as a Math major, where she crossed paths with a feisty biology teacher who opened her eyes and heart to the world of science. Cori moved to Saint Mary’s College of California as a Health Science major and went on to get her teaching credentials there as well. She began her professional career in a proverbial Trial by Fire. While student teaching at Antioch Middle School, she was asked to fill a position for a teacher on maternity leave at the other middle school in town. The only catch was, she was the fifth teacher to take on this class that year. She completed the year with the class and never doubted teaching was the right choice for her.
After several years in middle school, Cori made the move to high school with the opening of Deer Valley High in 1996. Here, she took on the role of class advisor and BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support & Assessment Program) leader. This gave her the opportunity to interact with and mentor students and teachers outside the classroom. In 2002, she began work at Northgate High School to be closer to home and her own children. At NHS, she has been department chair for the last 5 years, served on the principal’s COL committee (Collaboration on Learning), is a member of the Literacy Team, and is co-leader of the tutorial program developed from her work in COL. Tutorial is a peer mentoring program that runs three days a week for students earning low grades in any class. Students are matched to a student mentor who is trained to work with underperforming students or students who request assistance. Cori currently teaches Physiology and Physiology Honors, but has also taught Biology, GPS (General Physical Science), and Chemistry.
Teaching is about so much more than interesting curriculum or clever projects. While Cori prides herself on her corny jokes and the relevancy of her subject matter, the legacy she hopes for is one of connection. We live in a crazy, busy world which makes it easy to go through the motions but miss the moments. Cori’s goal is to make sure every student she works with thrives. Whether this is hosting after school study sessions, cheering on students in sports/music/theater/etc., being a club advisor, chaperoning dances, writing letters of recommendation, participating in teacher talent shows, or whatever else can be done to connect with kids in the areas that matter most to them, she is 100% in for the adventure. If her students are ever asked, “What did you take away from Mrs. Starr’s class?” she hopes the answer will be, “She really cared about me.”
If she is blessed to win the All-Star Teacher Award, Cori plans to put the money toward the creation of an outdoor science laboratory/classroom. This project has been the dream of the NHS Science Department and we hope to finally break ground this summer. Science is all around us and our students need to get out of our windowless classrooms to really embrace it.