20 Questions with Emma Sundberg, Biology Teacher

Commonwealth Biology teacher Emma Sundberg isn’t being facetious when she says, “Happy Monday!” Nor is she one to shy away from challenges—in fact, they are to be savored. After all, “anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Keep reading to learn more about this fountain of wisdom found in Commonwealth’s biology lab.

1. What three words best describe Commonwealth? 

Curious, interconnected, and bright

2. What’s your #1 piece of advice for Commonwealth students? 

It’s ok to not do everything, especially if that decision allows you to slow down and savor those challenges that you’ve chosen to take on.

3. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

My parents always say that anything worth doing is worth doing right. I try to remember that.

4. What does your ideal afternoon entail? 

Tiring myself out with work in the garden and then curling up on the couch with a book.

5. If you could teach any class aside from your own, what would it be? 

Probably French 1 or 2. I double-majored in French and Biology in college, but I have been drifting away from the language ever since. Teaching a class would motivate me to relearn a language I love.

6. Which word or phrase do you most overuse? 

Hmm. My students might be able to give you a more accurate answer. I do sometimes wonder about my use of the phrase “Happy Monday.” I have always liked Mondays, but I realize that to most people this greeting sounds like an oxymoron. 

7. When and how did you first become interested in biology? 

I had an excellent biology teacher in high school, and he helped reinforce my natural interest in the subject.

8. What do you find is the biggest misconception about teaching? 

That teachers are experts in every aspect of their field. Whenever I teach a new topic, like immunology this year, I learn along with my students, looking up answers to the unexpected and fascinating questions that they ask in class. 

9. What is your favorite aspect of your work? 

Seeing a student become excited about a new aspect of biology that they either hadn’t heard about or understood before my class.

Related: Faculty Projects: The Neuroscience of Learning with Ms. Sundberg

10. What are people surprised to learn about you? 

Apparently my students were surprised by my not-too-shabby painting skills at Hancock. My typical drawings on the board led to some assumptions…

11. If you could have dinner with one person (alive or dead), who would it be? 

I took a college course about Marie Antoinette, and I still find her a fascinating and misunderstood character in history.

12. Coffee or tea? 


13. Pen or pencil? 

As a student, it was always pencil. As a teacher, it’s bright pens of any color.

14. Scripted or improvised? 

Scripted, always scripted.

15. Fall, winter, spring, or summer? 

Fall, but winter is a close second.

16. What is your favorite museum? 

Out of loyalty, I’ll say the Museum of Science in Boston.

17. What is your favorite mode of transportation? 

Walking, when possible.

18. What do you bring to a potluck? 

Cheese-stuffed sweet peppers as an appetizer or some kind of dessert. 

19. If you could live as a local for 48 hours anywhere in the world, where would you go? 

Maybe the Amazon Rainforest to see the amazing biodiversity in person.

20. What is the best gift you have ever given? 

I don’t have a specific gift, but I generally try to give either something homemade or tickets to an event. I try to avoid adding clutter to people’s lives, unless I know it is really something they will use or treasure.

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