Q&A: Dr. Dustin Verpooten, Science


Dr. Dustin Verpooten, Science, helps Marc Mertsching (12) look through a microscope. Mertsching was using the microscope in Dr. Verpooten’s AP biology class.

Sara Lisac, Author

Q: What classes do you teach?

A: I teach AP biology and anatomy.

Q: How long have you been teaching at Lake Central?

A: I’ve been teaching here 6 years and actually during that time I’ve taught support biology, general biology, honors biology, AP biology, anatomy, bio-technology, and zoology.

Q: Did you always want to be a teacher?

A: No. Growing up I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, and when I got to college I decided I was going to go premed and be a psychiatrist. I show up and I have an interview with the department chair of the psychology department at the college that I was accepted to, Franklin, and she was like ‘Oh why do you want to be a psychology major’ and I said ‘because I’m going to be a psychiatrist’. Then, she said ‘You have to go to medical school for that. You might want to major in biology or chemistry’. At that point I hated chemistry, so the only thing left was biology. So, I walked out of her office, over to the biology building and decided I was going to be biology major. Then, when I took an ecology class, I wanted to be a park ranger. I just pictured driving around in a cop car, having a gun, and managing a forest; I liked that because when I was a kid I used to go hunting with my dad and I liked the outdoors. Then, I got over that and I took a microbiology class and we transformed bacteria and I thought ‘this is amazing; I want to be a microbiologist’. Then, I decided I wanted to be a pharmacist, so I worked at Walgreens for a while and I decided ‘this actually kind of sucks’. So then I decided no, I am not going to be a pharmacist, I’m going to teach.

Q: Why did you choose to teach?

A: I chose teaching because at the time I was changing careers a lot of things interested me and I was decent at school. I was good at a lot of things, but I never thought I was great at any one thing. Our senior year we had to give a senior seminar, which was a course you had to take for your major, and we had to give an hour lecture on a topic in biology. When I gave that lecture the professor approached me and said ‘I just want you to know that you have a real gift for speaking and I think you’d be really good at teaching’. That was the first time I felt really good at one thing, so I thought I should consider [teaching]. And that happened to me again at grad school, so I felt like I was affirmed again and I was like ‘Oh I want to do this teaching thing’.

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching?

A: I definitely like it because of the students. Yes, I can teach students science and biology and that’s a big part of what I do, but at the same time there’s always going to be a small set of students that you’re able to form a mentor type of relationship with and maybe you have an impact on their life outside of science. That totally makes it worthwhile.

Q: What is your most valuable memory while teaching at Lake Central.

A: I’ve been teaching AP biology for a couple of years just following what has been done before, then we started to get the new textbooks and I literally threw everything away that had been handed down to me. I created brand new lectures, like the whole course from scratch. That year we got the 90% pass rate with an average score of 4 [on the AP biology test] and that was way higher than we have ever gotten before. I felt validated in that moment, like oh this works, what I do works.