Brittany Hunter Kozlenko
BRITTANY HUNTER KOZLENKO
“I began to feel guilty about wanting to return to work.”
I have always wanted to be a teacher as far as I can remember. When I was in high school I had an amazing physics teacher who had so much passion and joy for what he did, that I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life. I earned my B.S. in physics with minors in both mathematics and secondary education.
Throughout my college career I began to realise that there were not many women in physical science and engineering. Of our graduating class of 9 physics majors and 30 engineering majors, there were only 3 females. In at least 2 math classes I was the only female student.
I was lucky to have supportive parents and a passion that drove me to stay in the field, but I always felt like an impostor. After earning my undergraduate degree I began teaching high school physics, I went on to earn my M.S. in instructional technology and then my Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction.
When I was beginning my dissertation for my Ed.D. I became pregnant with twins. My mentor had done a lot of gender research and conducted studies with math and science Olympians. He always encouraged me and pushed me to be an inspiration for my own female students. When he found out I was pregnant he had an honest conversation about the difficulty of finishing the dissertation once the children came and pushed me to get the research completed before they came.
He accommodated the times that I needed to come in on the weekends to access the database and helped me create realistic deadlines. I defended my dissertation when my children were 2-months old and he even wanted me to bring them to the defence. His support was instrumental in allowing me to finish my research.
High school teaching is a friendlier environment for moms than research, however I was surprised by many micro-aggressions I encountered, even in a family-friendly career. I had administrators tell me that I would change my mind about wanting to come back to work, and co-workers who kept telling me to stay home and take the rest of the year off when I had made it clear I want to come back and teach.
I began to feel guilty about wanting to return to work, as if there was something wrong with me for not wanting to be home full time with my children.
The more I studied physics education the more I found research about the gender gap in physical science. Inspiring more girls to study in the field became an important goal for me as a teacher. I also wanted to help young woman realise that they do belong in engineering fields, and are capable of tackling these difficult topics. I have taught all levels of physics, from introductory inclusion classes up to calculus based AP classes, as well as robotics. While I am on leave from my teaching position, I am working as a contractor at Google. Working at a large technology company as a content specialist has given me the opportunity to see how different work can be in the private sector when compared to education. I miss teaching everyday, but I value the opportunity I have been given to make an impact in a different and broader way.