As a scientist, Minneapolis native Alejandra Dashe likes to dig deep and search for the reasons why things are they way they are. She gets the opportunity to do just that by teaching biology and anthropology at the Paradise Valley Community College.
Dashe moved to Phoenix last year with her husband and their children when he took a new job. Now she takes pride in utilizing collaborative learning styles to engage students.
What’s your favorite thing about Arizona so far?
When we first got here, it was Passover and Rabbi Wasserman and Rabbi Kanter of the New Shul invited all of us over to celebrate Passover with them. It was very sweet of them to do that.
That was the first thing we noticed; everyone is kind and welcoming here. Everyone I’ve met has been genuinely interested in becoming friends.
How did you get into biology?
I was always interested in why we exist, how we exist, how life works and I really enjoy teaching those biology classes. They explain a lot for me and have made me realize how precious life is.
Why is teaching science important?
There’s a lot to learn from how and why genes express themselves. It explains why certain health conditions happen. Even with something as big as climate change, I feel that because I understand what’s going on, I can see we’re in a crisis. I’m not sure how to fix it, but I know that there are students who can, so I can help out by teaching basic science.
What’s your teaching style?
If it’s an online class, the students are really teaching themselves as long as I design it properly. If I’m doing a face-to-face or hybrid class then it’s a little bit more hands-on. I’ll do a bit more of a song and dance for the students by providing further explanation and create more interactive types of activities that really enhance why they need to understand these particular concepts. If they can look at it, feel it and smell it, they can really get a better idea.
People say doctors are the worst patients. Is that also true of scientists?
They are. Especially those with Ph.D.s, like me. We’re the worst.
Are your kids interested in science?
They think it’s really cool. We do a lot of science experiments at home and their favorite is making slime. There is slime everywhere in my house. They also really like cooking. I do a lot of baking at home and I’ll let them help and that’s chemistry.
We talk a lot about what ingredients need to go together, when they need to go together and what the final product is going to look like. If you add too much of this, is it going to change the taste? If you add too much of that, is that going to change the structure? It all matters.
What are your daughters’ favorite recipes for baking?
Banana bread is the most popular, because I manage to put chocolate in it, so if there’s chocolate in it, then they’re involved. I also make challah every week and my kids will get involved by kneading or braiding the dough. I’ll explain to them why we need to add the salt at a certain point and how yeast works. JN