Class Act: Biology and chemistry teacher Emily Estes


Reygan Jones

Estes’ experience at Xavier Academy greatly influenced her teaching style.

Indrani Maitra, Staff Writer

Most teachers are given the summer to prepare for their new jobs at St. John’s. Biology and Chemistry teacher Emily Estes joined the faculty a mere two weeks before.

Estes was in the midst of preparing to return to Xavier Academy when she received an unexpected call from Susan Bigge, the Science Department Chair, in early August. Estes said she was shocked and elated to learn that she had been offered the job of Biology I and Chemistry I teacher.

The following weeks proved to be both hectic and exciting as she prepared for the transition to St. John’s.

“It was crazy. My life totally ramped up,” Estes said. “It was a combination of: I feel like I have to be crazy to do this at this point in time so close before school, but how could I be so silly to turn this offer down?”

Despite Estes’ late entry and little time to prepare, Bigge commended her rapid adjustment to St. John’s.

“She did come onboard later in the cycle, but she hit the ground running,” Bigge said. “She loves real world experiences outside the classroom, something we really need after Mr. Elliot, who led the biology trips, left. We’re so thrilled that she decided to join us at such an unusual entry point.”

Estes grew up in Houston and graduated from Carnegie Vanguard High School in 2008. After taking a gap year to study in Israel, she attended the University of Miami and majored in Marine Biology. She stayed in Miami for three years, where she worked at a science museum and a Jewish day school. Eventually, attracted by the offer of teaching at Xavier Educational Academy and seeing her friends and family again, she returned to Houston.

Xavier Academy has a very nontraditional platform for teaching and learning, which significantly impacted her teaching style, according to Estes.

“I taught a really wide range of students — some were involved in demanding extracurriculars while others may have faced a severe obstacle,” Estes said. “I’ve learned to become more flexible and open-minded. It’s a teacher’s job to be understanding and accommodating.”

Estes’ love for the ocean, her high school swim team and science teachers prompted her to pursue a degree in Marine Biology.

“I was just bridging all my interests,” Estes said. “I definitely didn’t know I wanted to be a teacher, but I knew I wanted to educate people on why they should care about the ocean and why it was important.”

Estes’s initial passion for education came from interactions with marine mammal husbandry, such as dolphin and sea lion training.

“A lot of people become really attached when they have experiences like that, so I wanted to motivate people to care about the ocean indirectly,” she said.

Estes is finding her adjustment to SJS far easier than she thought, thanks to the support she has received from faculty and students.

“Everyone’s really willing to support me and answer questions,” Estes said. “I don’t feel alone.”

Students were immediately struck by Estes’ love for science and her enthusiasm in the classroom.

“She’s energetic and excited about what she’s teaching — she radiates positivity,” freshman Elan Grossman said.

Estes said she admires her students’ motivation and drive and is inspired by their openness to learning.

“Everyone at SJS is so thirsty to learn, to expand their mind,” Estes said. “That challenges me and really makes me a better person.”