New to the Collegiate Upper School math department, Ms. Kristine Chiodo came to Collegiate after teaching at Maggie Walker Governor’s School for eight years. She currently teaches regular calculus, Honors Pre-Calculus, and Honors Geometry and Trigonometry. Ms. Chiodo grew up in New Jersey and attended college at Virginia Tech, where she majored in engineering. She also went through graduate school in engineering until she decided she wanted a change. After some surveys, she decided to choose a different path midway through graduate school. Realizing that engineering was not something she wanted to pursue, she set her sights on a new profession: teaching. So instead of earning her certificate as an engineer, Ms. Chiodo got her teaching degree. Surprisingly to Ms. Chiodo, she was closer to a teaching certificate in math than in physics when making the switch from engineering to teaching, prompting her to pursue a career as a math teacher. Although she earned her teaching degree in math, Ms. Chiodo says that she also loves teaching physics. In her career as a teacher, she has often served as a substitute for physics teachers. Ms. Chiodo has been teaching for 25 years since coming to the realization that teaching was what she wanted to do.
Ms. Chiodo’s pre-Collegiate teaching career has been mostly in public schools in the Richmond area. After realizing ten years ago that she would like to leave the public school model, she started looking for an independent school where she could teach. Despite being interested in Collegiate, there were no openings at that time. So she went to teach at Maggie Walker, an alternative public school model where, like Collegiate, entrance exams are required. After eight years there, “I was enjoying myself, but I really wanted to get out of some of the things that I really don’t like about the public school model.” These things included the rigidity of the curriculum and the influence of SOLs. “I started looking [at Collegiate] about ten years ago, and there wasn’t an opening, but I knew that I liked the philosophy of this school, so it’s always been in the back of my mind.”
As she expected, Collegiate differs from the public school model she was trying to get away from. Ms. Chiodo says, “The first thing I noticed about Collegiate is that the curriculum and the class offerings, like the courses you’re allowed to take, are totally driven by what the students want, that doesn’t happen in most places. The fact that you have so many English electives, that’s a lot of freedom that doesn’t exist in public schools, for sure.” She is glad to be at a school where the curriculum is not uniform for every student but each student has an individualized program.
As expected, she enjoys the philosophy of Collegiate and how “[here at Collegiate] you really embrace the whole person. I know that there’s the two-sport requirement, but the fact that students are encouraged to do things outside of the classroom, that’s different, and it’s really positive. The way that Collegiate embraces the whole person: the social side, the humanitarian side, the emotional side, the physical side, all of it. I love that.” Assemblies and other activities, which she says “give time for all that nurturing of the spirit of the people” are things that she enjoys at Collegiate that were lacking in the public school model. Here at Collegiate, Ms. Chiodo has found her fit.
Ms. Chiodo is a multi-talented person. Among her hidden talents, she brings her love of theater and jigsaw puzzle mastery. She says, “I love theater. I’ve always been involved in theater in every teaching job I’ve ever had, either as an assistant director or running the theater club, stuff like that.” She has also served as stage manager for her church’s theater productions and even played a role in one.
Another forté of Chiodo’s is jigsaw puzzles. “My dad taught me how to do jigsaw puzzles, and we are just mad jigsaw puzzle people.” About 12-15 years ago, Ms. Chiodo was able to realize her jigsaw puzzle dreams when a friend of hers informed her of a jigsaw puzzle competition, organized by a jigsaw puzzle manufacturer, at the Richmond convention center. Ms. Chiodo entered in the singles’ category, where she had to complete a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle along with her 100 or so other competitors. After a little more than two hours, Mr. Chiodo was the first to finish her puzzle, winning the competition and the grand prize of $500. She is a rare avis—it is not everyday that one meets a jigsaw puzzle champion.