The lasting impact of an exceptional teacher often stems from something outside of the curriculum and beyond the 45 minutes of an instructional period. Deep listening, empathy and open dialogue can help students find personal passions and envision their future beyond Bernard Zell. For Anna Christensen (Class of 2010) this was especially true. The encouragement she received from Dr. Ellison to go further in her history projects or the personal reading recommendations from Ms. Rybowiak helped to shape her future educational trajectory.
The daughter of an alumna, Anna started at Bernard Zell in Junior Kindergarten and fondly remembers her performing arts experiences and many of the influential books she read. Though perhaps most instrumental in shaping her future was the eighth-grade term paper which she wrote on museum repatriation, the modern effort of cultural institutions to return art or artifacts back to the countries and cultures from which they came. With knowledge of her interests, Dr. Ellison suggested this topic, and because he knew the repatriations director at the Field Museum, helped to facilitate an introduction, resulting in a personal visit, and a few years later, as a college student, this same relationship turned into an internship.
With a love of history now deeply rooted, Anna proceeded on to Walter Payton High School. She graduated in 2014 and that fall began at the University of Chicago where she earned a BA in history. Aside from her internship at the Field, she was also able to spend a summer during college as an intern at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Following her college graduation, Anna spent a year working at the Chicago History Museum and applying to graduate programs, ultimately gaining acceptance to Harvard University’s history of science program where Anna is today pursuing a Ph.D.
When asked where her love for history began, she definitively remembers that her desire to get a Ph.D. in history was first sparked in 8th-grade at Bernard Zell. The care and attention of teachers who pushed her to go the extra mile and who took great interest in her success resulted in a driven young woman determined to make positive changes in the world around her.