Teacher Feature: Leyf Starling
New teacher Ms. Starling of the Robotics department is actually not new to Durham Academy; in fact, she’s returning. The UNC and UVA graduate taught at DA’s Middle School years ago before moving on to work at NC School of Science and Math and NC State University, among other schools. Now, she’s back at DA to pass on what she has learned.
Ms. Starling’s career in engineering began with her family. “My sister and I used to spend our summers helping our dad in his lab,” she said. Back then, she did little more than clean out beakers, but that experience, as well as her love of science and math, set her on the path to studying mechanical engineering in college.
Since then, she has been working in various schools, sharing her skills with students from kindergarten to college. She loves teaching engineering and robotics. “Those subjects are an excellent application of your classes. They give you a reason to pay attention in your math class or science class,” she said. “They also help students use problem-solving and be creative with their solutions.”
Ms. Starling herself is a great example of creative solutions, as DA Upper School students know from her presentation on Community Service Day. She has held a successful engineering camp, the Summer Engineering Experience for Students with Visual Impairments or Blindness, for the past several years. This camp brings visually impaired high school students together to create and present engineering capstone projects in a supportive environment that allows them to thrive and learn.
After working with young people for so long, Ms. Starling has noticed “the amazing ability of students to come up with answers on their own that are things I wouldn’t have thought of.” She sees her job as not just teaching content, but helping students expand on their knowledge to solve real-world problems, such as healthcare.
And she doesn’t find it hard to imagine robotic solutions to these issues. “I think there’s so many problems with the health area,” she said. “It would be really cool if there was a robot like Baymax [from Big Hero 6] that could go around and assess your health and be more preventative.”
Beginning her second run at DA, Ms. Starling is enjoying “the ability to choose how we teach what we teach. You don’t find that at every school.” You don’t find a teacher like Ms. Starling at every school, either, and DA is lucky to have her back again.