For this week’s Woman Wednesday, we sit down with Angie Collins, the Department Chair of Science at St. Joseph’s High School in Conway. Collins has been in education for 28 years and always knew that she wanted to teach since she was a little girl.
“I loved school. I always wanted to help the teacher and pass out papers and grades papers. I really loved helping people,” Collins says. “I knew I wanted to teach and spend my time helping others understand.”
Collins has a love for math and science but feared that a lot of students weren’t as invested in those courses because they were mandatory, as opposed to electives. Collins ultimately decided to go into agriculture.
“I grew up in a rural area and was more excited to teach a course where I knew kids would be excited to learn,” he says.
Collins soon found herself in a male-dominated field.
“I was one of four women teaching agriculture in Louisiana at that time. I was very different from what a lot of people expected to see in an agriculture class. I was a minority in the field, but I never spent a lot of time worrying about being different,” Collins says. “If you do a good job and work hard, people will notice that. Some people who had been there for 30 or 40 years were surprised that I was there, and didn’t like how the field was changing. But I always treated them with respect.”
Collins noticed that her presence in the class room began to change perceptions of the field. “When I first started teaching, all of my students were boys. But over time, more and more girls began to join my courses, because they realized that they could do it too.”
Today at St. Joseph’s High School in Conway, Collins teaches biology, chemistry and anatomy courses.
“I’m really, really big on students having different learning styles, and you have to hit them all. It just makes for better learning, because I can appeal to every student with their strength, and they learn better,” Collins says. “Even in my classes that most people would consider to be very conceptual, we do hands-on projects and labs. There’s a real body and mind connection.”
When asked what it means to be a woman, Collins replies, “I really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about being a woman. I spend more time thinking about being a good person. A good spouse. A good mom. A good teacher. I think being a good ‘me’ is the most important thing that I can do,” she says.
“I want to represent women well– I want to be a good representative of who a woman is. I want to be able to juggle everything well. I don’t worry about whether or not I was a good woman– I worry about whether or not I was a good person. Was I listening to God today? Is my heart good? Do I give people the benefit of the doubt? How can I be supportive of somebody? How can I be the best person that I can be?”
Collins gives a word of advice to young women.
“Be confident and be bold. Don’t let somebody tell you that you can’t do something. If you want something, you need to work for it. And if you work hard for it, you’ll get it. You need to be confident, and bold,” she says. “Too many women try to please everybody, but won’t try to make themselves happy. Sometimes, it’s scary to be bold and confident. But women need to find their passion and what brings them joy.”