Earlier this school year, Saint Stephen’s welcomed a new teacher into their faculty. This teacher is Mrs. Stephanie Juengling, who has been teaching both Ancient World History and Modern World History for the past eight months.
Although some 9th and 10th graders may know her well, many other students in the school will likely ask: Who is Dr. Juengling? I sat down with Dr. Juengling recently for an interview, hoping to shine some light on who she is as a teacher and a person.
Q: Where are you from originally?
A: I was born in Gainesville. I lived in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa growing up. I went to middle school and high school here at Saint Stephen’s and graduated with the class of 2006, so I do consider Bradenton my hometown.
Q: What brought you to teach at Saint Stephen’s after attending the school as a student?
A: After I graduated from Saint Stephen’s, I did my undergrad at the University of Central Florida and then attended graduate school at the University of Florida in the department of anthropology. After graduation, I wanted to work locally in Gainesville for a little bit and I ended up working for a healthcare clinic assisting with their marketing and research. After about a year, I started to feel like I was missing something and wanting to return to teaching. I explored my options at the college level and it crossed my mind that I could see if Saint Stephen’s had any teaching positions available, because it would be really meaningful to come back here and teach history at the place where I went to school. It turned out that a position became available teaching history here at the Upper School, which was perfect, so I came back here to teach in the same classroom that I attended many years ago.
Q: What has changed about the school since your time as a student?
A: In my first year of high school, we were actually still in the Annex, which was an old shopping building that was here before they finished constructing these three buildings. My class was one of the first ones in these three buildings when they were new. When I was here, you could look out the library window and see the softball field where I would play on the softball team, and now there’s a football field. We did not have a football team when I went to Saint Stephen’s, so it has grown. They’ve added programs, both in sports and academic departments, and expanded these programs quite a bit so it is really exciting to see.
Q: When did you first take interest in teaching?
A: When I went to graduate school at the University of Florida, graduate students can be teaching assistants in exchange for tuition coverage, so I was hired on as one for several courses. At the time, I didn’t think I would go into teaching but I ended up really enjoying assisting with classrooms and, in some cases, that role was more of a lecturer or discussion facilitator position. So I got used to being in the front of the classroom, teaching information to students and helping them think critically about it. I was offered a position as a teaching associate, which is where you’re a graduate student lecturer, so you’re actually the professor of the class. I taught a class called Gender Roles cross-culturally that was using anthropology to look at different forms of gender roles around the world. So that’s when I got used to this idea of teaching and really started to enjoy it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a teacher at that point because, at the college level, there were other requirements that were a bit more intense. They were research requirements I wasn’t sure I wanted for myself, so this ended up being a really nice opportunity to teach at a level where I can be more interactive with students and focus on the joy of teaching.
Q: Which are your favorite subjects to teach?
A: I love anthropology. That’s a pretty broad field that includes the studies of humans, essentially, so I really enjoyed studying cultural anthropology, looking at societies and their different types of cultures. I like to teach history of course, in a general sense, but also I like to focus on aspects of archaeology as well, such as looking at the archaeological sites and how we know about history through artifacts and material remains. So I like to look at history through the lenses of anthropology and archaeology.
Q: How have you enjoyed your time at Saint Stephen’s so far?
A: It has been absolutely wonderful here at Saint Stephen’s. All of the faculty and the students have been incredibly kind, professional, and very supportive. It’s been a blast teaching alongside teachers that I had here at Saint Stephen’s. I had Mr. Whelan as a teacher, Ms. Price as my English teacher, Mr. Moore as my Humanities teacher; so it’s been so interesting being a peer with them rather than just as a student. It’s been very unique and rewarding.
Q: How do you feel COVID has affected your job as a teacher?
A: I can definitely understand how COVID has made teaching much more challenging. I never thought that my first year teaching would be juggling in-person students and virtual students. I feel, though, that having started this way gave me an advantage because I had to hit the ground running and adapt very quickly to an entirely new set of challenges. However, that also means I wasn’t set in my curriculum. I didn’t have to change everything I had been teaching in the years prior; I had to develop it as I went along this year. So it has been challenging, but I know that in the future that other challenges will be minor compared to the challenges we’re facing this year.
Q: What would you want any future students to know about what they could expect in your classes?
A: I do expect a lot from my freshmen. I know they’re just coming into the high school, but I like to prepare them to be professional, be academic, and think critically about the information they’re being given. So I like to challenge them, but I also like to make history fun. I have this passion for history and anthropology that I try to share with my students, so even though they may feel challenged, I hope that they are also enjoying it as well. That’s the best way to approach this subject, in a way that is exciting and fascinating.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to students at Saint Stephen’s, what would it be?
A: My one piece of advice would be to take advantage of all of the opportunities that they have here to better prepare them for life outside of Saint Stephen’s, whether it’s college or their careers. If they take advantage of the programs being offered and the teachers who are willing to help and talk outside of class, all these different opportunities, no matter how small they are, are going to be extremely helpful in the long run. It’s going to get them experiences that other students in colleges might not have. So they’re already going to have experience doing research here and being involved in academic teams or different types of clubs.
Q: What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of teaching?
A: I was involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It’s basically for history nerds who like to learn about any kind of history pre-1600s. It’s basically like going to a Ren Faire or Medieval Fair year round, so you get to pick a historical persona and create an outfit that’s historically accurate, and it allows people who have an interest in history to mingle with each other and learn from each other. I do enjoy sci-fi and fantasy genres, so I’m really into the Marvel universe. I also enjoy playing board games, I have a collection of those at home.
Dr. Juengling’s history at SSES, coupled with the value she finds in teaching, really make her a good fit for Saint Stephen’s. Welcome back, Dr. Juengling!