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Pam Durkee


True Excellence
By June Trachsel, Math 

One day I heard some clinking and clanking emanating from Pam Durkee’s room, and above all the clatter Pam was yelling, “You have 5 minutes to pick up your food!” I could not resist opening the lab door to reveal engaged students enthusiastically trying to pick up “food” with various different beak-like contraptions such as forks, tweezers, and chopsticks, simulating Darwin’s theory of evolution. This is a typical example of how Pam continually infuses her biology classes with interactive labs, cultivating her students’ love of biology. Pam firmly believes that students must understand the value of critical thinking to support their conclusions based on facts, sound scientific principles, and accurate data analysis. She then provides engaging labs to demonstrate these valuable concepts, whether it be analyzing paper birds with wings, designing a geometrical treasure hunt, or creating a scientific bingo template.

Simply put, Pam Durkee represents excellence in every sense of the word. Not only did she graduate from Stanford earning a Bachelors in Biological Sciences, she has earned a Masters and a PhD in zoology, with an emphasis in behavioral genetics. She has worked at a world renowned mammalian genetics institute, the Jackson Laboratory, in Bar Harbor, Maine. Pam also received the prestigious American Stars of Teaching Award, a national honor given by the U.S. Department of Education. She earned this award not only through her excellent teaching, but her volunteer work (since 1996) coaching junior high students for Math Counts, something she still does today. She earned a sizeable monetary award, and in her typical humble fashion, split up the monies with the entire York faculty, claiming we all deserved this award.

A veteran teacher, Pam has been working her magic at York since 1999. Multi-talented and versatile, Pam has taught a range of classes including Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Advanced Placement Biology, Algebra I, Geometry, and has even created a new class called Science Research. This class gives students the opportunity for independent study of a science topic, with the help of a mentor to guide them in their studies. She not only serves on the Admission Committee, but is in charge of the York Science Fair. I believe it is no accident that since she has come on board, 14 out of the last 18 years York students have qualified as finalists at the Intel International Science Fair.

A proud mom of three sons (all York graduates), Pam is also a talented baker and dog enthusiast. Every week she trains her beloved canine companions in the fields of obedience, rally, agility, and nose work, racking up numerous awards and earning impressive state and national rankings. Constantly striving to improve her teaching, Pam has combined both her loves by taking a course in Dog Emotion and Cognition as a way to see how dog evolution applies to human evolution. I only wish I was as evolved as she, a perfect combination of true excellence, innovative teacher, and nurturing human being. 

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Since 1959, York School has created an exceptional college-prep experience for our youth: inspiring them to develop intellectual curiosity; challenging them to create and try new things; and preparing them to be passionate contributors in college and in life.