In 1997, I graduated from Utrecht University with a degree in biology. My specialisations were ecology (supervised by Jo Willems) and ethology (supervised by Liesbeth Sterck). After my study, I started as a biology teacher at the Jacob-Roelandslyceum in Boxtel. One year later, I graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a degree in education, allowing me to teach at upper-secondary level.
After more than 20 years of teaching, I still take great pleasure in working at this secondary school (havo and vwo levels) in Boxtel, mainly because of plenty of spontaneous pupils and inspiring colleagues. With our team we provide context-rich education by teaching outdoors in our school garden, excursions to Texel and Brabant’s own nature reserves, courses in cooperation with the medical and agricultural affiliates, exercises in Dutch Zoos (Blijdorp and Burgers’) and by guest lessons from our old-students.
Discussions in our school about pupils’ motivation sparked my question concerning the role teachers play in the learning process of adolescent scholars. What skills and abilities make a teacher an inspiring role model for their pupils? Social learning strategies do not just play an important role in the classroom, but also in a group of closely related primates who are able to learn complex behaviour. I wll research which characteristics determine the favourite role model for juvenile long-tailed macaques.
My proposal for this research was honoured by the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Teachers can apply for a grant offering them the chance to conduct their PhD-research in a span of five years, receiving funds to spend 40% of their daytime jobs on their research. Because of this opportunity, I am able to work with people whom I have admired since my time as a student, students who chose this study after their secondary school and the animals that have fascinated me from an early age.