Dr. Margaret Diamond does not spend much time worrying about what Robert Frost called the road not taken. That is because an early detour in her career path has made all the difference.
Diamond is a science teacher at Park School, instructing 7th, 11th, and 12th grade classes. A teaching career was not the original plan, however, when Diamond studied at the University of Rochester and the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University. She worked as a research technician in a laboratory for a few years and decided to get a Ph.D. in molecular biology. She pursued that with course work and research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.
Scientists hope for an “aha!” moment when doing their work. One of those moments told Diamond that she wasn’t entirely happy with her career choice.
“I really enjoyed doing laboratory work, I enjoyed the process,” she said. “Doing science and research is really getting pieces of a puzzle and putting them together. And I like doing puzzles. But at some point it became not the right thing for me any longer, and I made a change.”
Diamond resigned from her laboratory job and stayed at home for a few years while her two daughters were very young. Then a new career idea dawned on her.
“I had done some teaching as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. It was something I had always enjoyed doing because I enjoyed helping kids. ... I knew that I would prefer teaching on a middle school/high school level over the college level because you get to interact more with your students. So I went back to school and got my teaching certification for biology and earth science, which are the two areas that I love the most.”
Diamond spent five years teaching at a Catholic high school, then worked as a long-term substitute at a public middle school in the Northtowns. She came to work at Park School in the fall of 2007.
“The thing that I enjoy the most about Park is the freedom that we are given as teachers to be creative and develop curriculum. Teaching in a public school and teaching the Regents curriculum is fine. I have no problem with the Regents curriculum, it’s a perfectly good curriculum, but you are teaching to a test that someone else made up. And that’s a difficult thing to do.
“I really do enjoy not being in that particular situation and being able to be creative and come up with ideas and implement them and see how they work. And this campus is beautiful and there are so many things you can do. You can be outdoors and do science out here and show kids examples of what it is you’re trying to teach them in class. It’s just a wonderful place to be.”
Her seventh grade class this past year was Life Science. In the Upper School, Diamond taught forensics and marine biology. She said she enjoys watching the development of her students when she sees them progress from seventh grade into Upper School juniors and seniors.
“I just like interacting with kids. They’re a lot of fun and they are excited about just about anything you do with them.”
Diamond’s husband, Jacob Schachtner, works as an engineer at Fisher Price-Mattel. The Diamonds have a 20-year-old daughter, Emilie, who is a junior at Ohio Wesleyan University, and a 17-year-old daughter, Jackie, a junior at Williamsville East High School who is beginning the college search process.
An anecdote about a former student of hers finding her way in college illustrates part of what Diamond finds rewarding about teaching.
“There was a girl who took AP Biology from me and she thought she was going to go into engineering,” Diamond recalls. “But she did really well in AP Biology and she ended up doing really well on the exam. When she came back from college in the first year, she told me what a difference her experience at Park had made for her college experience. She told me she was going to change her major, and instead of going into engineering, she was going to be a biology major. So she found out that this is who she really was.”
Diamond says the freedom that students experience at Park seems to make them more invested in their education.
“When it’s your choice, when it’s your responsibility, maybe you put more of an investment into it,” she said. “They have enough rope to hang themselves, to pull themselves up, or anything in between.”
Diamond says she is “a naturalist at heart. That’s the main reason I went to CES&F for a Master’s degree. However, there were not many jobs available in that field at the time (and probably still), so I altered my path. I feel like I’ve come full circle now. I can use my knowledge of biology to help teach kids and connect them to the outdoors, which I love. We can’t separate ourselves from the natural world–we’re part of it.”