Like most liberal arts graduates, Kimberly Crowell explored many different avenues before becoming a teacher four years ago. She traveled the world, modeled briefly, nannied, bartended, and even worked at the Gap. She was about to enroll in law school when a teacher invited Kimberly to sit in on her class. Soon Crowell had her Masters in Education and was teaching chemistry, sex-ed, and drama at Fernwood Middle School, a bizarre mix of classes resultant from Portland Public Schools' infamous budget cuts. She was hired on as a full-time science teacher at Fernwood the following year, and since last fall has been teaching introductory physics and chemistry at Cleveland High School.

What do you love about your job?

Teaching kind of encompasses what I think life should be about: You get opportunities to learn and it's very generative. And it's exciting, especially when it involves baking soda and vinegar and rockets. That's the secret to science: baking soda and vinegar.

What do you love about science?

I see it as being a life engineer. You can see how things work and are put together in the world around you; it's a framework for understanding the world.

How do you feel about creationism?

I think a lot of the reason religion exists in the first place is the result of evolutionary adaptations. I try and embrace all beliefs in my classroom, but I do feel that kids have to have a foundation in the sciences if they're going to choose to believe in creationism. Then they can at least pose a solid argument.

Teaching gives you a lot of time off. How do you use it?

The district provides great reimbursement for continuing your education, so I take a lot of classes. I usually take six credits a year. And I love to travel.

Where's your next trip?

Ask me next week and I might know... I went to Tunisia over Christmas, and last summer to Peru and Bolivia, and to East Africa the summer before. I feel pretty lucky.

What's the hardest part of the job?

A lot of kids don't fit into the classroom setting very well. It's hard to see a student struggle at learning when they're simply not suited for that environment. And there's only so much I can do for each student. I see 140 students a day.

Do you have teacher's pets?

It's hard not to. They know who they are. Like all of first period, who are half asleep the whole time. This is a shout-out to first period: Wake up!