”I want everyone in my class to feel included”
Meet our teachers
As a doctoral student, Sara Sebelius discovered how fun it is to teach. Despite being a very successful researcher, she found that it was even more fun to teach than to conduct research and be in the lab. She thinks that the fact that she’s never prejudiced about the students and that she always makes sure that everyone is included on equal terms, is part of what makes her a good teacher.
Sara Sebelius has been a teacher at KTH since 2014. She defended her thesis in organic chemistry at the University of Stockholm and then did her postdoc at KTH. She has a patent for an innovation that she has commercialised and has managed to sell to five big markets in the world. Her research has been further used by well-known research groups all over the world and has been quoted in textbooks for university courses. Today she is a Lecturer and Head of Division of Basic Science at Campus Flemingsberg, where she teaches chemistry at the Technical Preparatory Year.
Before she started as a teacher at KTH, she also worked with vehicle emission control and catalysis at Scania, with electric cars at TFK, and as a teacher in mathematics and chemistry at an upper-secondary school.
What makes you a good teacher?
“The students at the Technical Preparatory Year are interested in science, but they didn’t study that in upper-secondary school. They’re often worried that it will be difficult, and many of them come from non-academic homes. I think that part of what makes me a good teacher is that I really like to explain and make sure that everyone understands. I make a point of explaining all the terms that are not a part of everyday language. I want everyone in my class to feel included, so that they’re not afraid to ask when they don’t understand. I also try to inspire the students and make the classes interesting.”
What do you enjoy the most about teaching?
“It’s probably when I see that something the students didn’t understand at first suddenly makes sense to them, ‘Oh, this is how it works!” To see when they ‘get it’. That, and to watch the joy of learning.”
“In one of the course evaluations, a student wrote that they never ’zoom out’ in my lessons and that I’m very perceptive to what’s going on in the class.”
“When I was a doctoral student, teaching was 20 percent of my time. I think that’s when I discovered how fun it really is to teach, and that I’m good at explaining so that students understand.”
What makes you so committed?
“KTH has an important mission with broadened recruitment, the students at KTH should reflect the society. We have a great resource out there, which we’re not making use of – people from non-academic homes, but also women, who are at a minority at KTH. That’s why it’s so fun to teach at the Technical Preparatory Year. It can serve as an entry for those students.”
“I’ve also taken several JML courses, which gave me many insights. After the courses, I’ve held a workshop with all the staff at the division to share that knowledge with them.”
Do you have any advice to share?
“Important to have in mind if you want to be a good teacher, is never to have any prejudice. Also, to see what the students find difficult and then challenge them to continue working with that.”
What else helps you in your daily work?
“All the teachers in my Division are very competent and engaged.There’s a good atmosphere in our group of teachers, and we have many interesting discussions. I really enjoy working with my colleagues. Everyone’s interested in finding new knowledge. Most of the teachers at the Technical Preparatory Year also teach the Degree programmes, which gives an extra perspective. Also, when you teach you are never alone, we are a team of teachers at the Technical Preparatory Year. I always find support among my colleagues, whose teaching has a very high standard.
“My manager, Sebastiaan Meijer, is also very supportive. Among other things he conducted a survey that showed that the students at the Technical Preparatory Year don’t fully feel part of KTH. As a result, the Preparatory Year students will now get to visit KTH’s different research centres. This was very welcomed by the teachers. And together with Michail Magkos, researcher at MTH, I’ve been given the possibility to build up a film studio in Flemingsberg, where both teachers and researchers can make educational films.”
Sara grew up in Haninge, a classic working class area, and maybe that has contributed to the fact that she takes such an interest in broadened recrutiment and inclusion.
“I come from an academic home, but my friends didn’t. None of my childhood friends went on to higher education, so I really know how your background can matter.”
Text: Åsa Karsberg