Kimberly Agzigian, the Ruth and Samuel Salzberg Science Department Chair and Science Teacher, grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. As a child, Kimberly’s aspiration was to be an Olympic equestrian as she was spending most of her time around horses. When Kimberly was introduced to the genetics field by a High School teacher, it was clear to her that she has a special connection to the subject. Once she had taken all of the related science courses at her school, she went on to further study at the local community college.
Kimberly would then matriculate to the University of Maryland where she pursued a Bachelors in Economics. The time spent in College Park would cement a love for Maryland and would eventually lead her back to the area permanently. After graduation, Kimberly returned to Pennsylvania and worked for The Limited Corp. for 5 years. During this time Kimberly kept up her interest in genetics, often reading research journals and books focusing on conservation.
It was a trip back to her alma mater and a meeting with the head of the Conservation Biology department that led Kimberly to take the leap and pursue her graduate degree, which focused on conservation genetics. It wasn’t until an advisor asked Kimberly to TA a genetics course that she discovered her love for teaching.
After graduate school, Kimberly briefly returned to Pennsylvania, where she was an adjunct Biology teacher at The College of New Jersey. Kimberly found an ad in the Washington Post for a position at JDS about a year later ad the rest was history. “I felt an instant connection with the students, and all of the faculty I met were so welcoming,” Kimberly said. “I really felt it was the perfect fit, and it still is 23 years later.”
Throughout her tenure at JDS, Kimberly has taught in many capacities, eventually becoming the Ruth and Samuel Salzberg Science Department Chair. During that time, Kimberly has overseen the expansion of the department in subject availability and project capability. “The Science Department at the Upper School is extremely collaborative,” Kimberly said. “I have amazing colleagues in the department who teach me new things about education and their subjects constantly.”
Over the years, Kimberly has felt extremely lucky to work among her colleagues outside of the Science Department as well. “I have always worked closely with other departments and the Administration,” Kimberly said. “Specifically, I worked with Roz Landy, who took a lead role in getting us the initial funding for the genetics program. That field of study is now a stand out for our school. I have always felt very supported both professionally and personally.”
Kimberly is particularly proud of that expansion of the genetics program, and the addition of bioengineering and 3-D printers. The 3-D printers are being integrated into the science classes, teaching students to design and print prosthetics, and even the concepts of organ printing.
Kimberly found that one of the most powerful ways to make science come to life was through personal connection, putting a “face” to the project. In 2019, Kimberly’s students developed and printed a working prosthetic hand for her niece to be able to drive and do more daily tasks autonomously. “It’s great when our projects are not just some theoretical idea,” Kimberly said. “That way our students can see how the science is impacting real people in real time. They see that what we are learning is being used right now by scientists down the road at the NIH, for example.”
The one constant that has remained during Kimberly’s tenure at the School is the special connection she feels with the students. “Our students are great in the classroom and they work hard but more importantly they are tremendous human beings,” Kimberly said. “I have become friends with many students after graduation. I have been to weddings, brisses, and I hope to still be here to teach some of their children one day.”
After 23 years with the School, Kimberly is more excited than ever to keep the progress in the Science Department moving forward. “I absolutely love working at JDS,” Kimberly said. “I start each week excited to come in and work and I am excited to see the kids. I am excited to see my colleagues and I still love my job after all of these years.”
Outside of school, Kimberly’s passion is training her collies to be therapy dogs and taking them for sessions at various support centers and medical facilities around the area. Currently, Kimberly’s oldest collie, Grayson, visits the Treehouse, where he supports children who have been victims of trauma. Another of Kimberly’s collies, Liam, volunteers at the Villages of Rockville Senior Center Memory Unit. During these interactions between her collies and patients, Kimberly has seen amazing moments, including hearing a dementia patient speak after months of being non-verbal, and a child trauma victim coming back out of her shell while playing with Grayson. Kimberly is currently training two more collies to become therapy dogs in specific fields suited to their personalities.