Elizabeth Lillis, Science

science-lillisAs a child growing up in Maryland, Elizabeth Lillis loved learning about science and art. She combined the two disciplines at Georgetown University, majoring in biology with a minor in art. “Studying both disciplines was a great opportunity, because previously I often had to choose between the two. Biology is very visual. When I create an image for the students illustrating an abstract idea, I draw upon art history. When we work with the microscope, we use art to represent what we are looking at from a scientific angle.”

After Elizabeth graduated from Georgetown, a college advisor encouraged her to work with an outdoor education program in Colorado. There she realized she loved working with children and enjoyed the “discovery and surprise” of teaching. Looking to establish a longer, deeper connection with the students, Elizabeth accepted a teaching position at her high school and taught with her former biology teacher. “I felt as if I was meant to be teaching all along.”

She earned her master’s in education, “to fill in the missing pieces, become more well-rounded in teaching, and develop a better understanding of how to work with high school students.” Learning how to teach science using innovative methods has been particularly beneficial to her teaching at Milton.

After seven years teaching at both a public high school and a private girls’ school, Elizabeth came to Milton in 2006. “The unique structure of Milton—being an independent, co-educational school with a strong boarding and day experience—was something I hadn’t experienced. I thought it would be a great adventure. My colleagues at Milton are so resourceful. I learn something every day about science here, and that’s so much fun for me. My colleagues have been good mentors to me, as a teacher who is still learning about teaching.”

Elizabeth teaches Biology and Honors Biology. One of her favorite labs is when the students remove DNA from a food, such as peas or strawberries. The actual process only takes about 15 minutes. “The fun part is unpacking what it all means. The actual DNA is kind of this stringy, gross stuff, and I enjoy the surprise of the students as they’re learning about it.”

Elizabeth also teaches a course she developed called Science in the Modern Age. This elective course deals with stimulating and controversial, science-related current events that students are hearing every day, like genetic modification and sustainability.

“At Milton, the students are outspoken. The School encourages them to say what they think, and holds them accountable for sharing their ideas. Having students who are eager to join in is refreshing. Even on tough days, or with material that isn’t as compelling, they’re happy to be learning. This enthusiasm is fun.

Elizabeth shares Class I dean responsibilities with Classics teacher Paul Archer. She is also the assistant girls’ varsity soccer coach. “I love getting to know students outside the classroom.  Being around them is so much fun.”

Four Things You Don’t Know About Mrs. Lillis

1. She’s a diehard Georgetown men’s basketball fan.

2. She plays soccer recreationally in local women’s leagues.

3. In college, she studied in Florence, Italy.

4. She is addicted to word games like Boggle, Bananagrams and crossword puzzles.