Courtney Engle CA ’08 could probably pursue a career anywhere, and she’s chosen one at Colorado Academy. And in a twist of fate, her Kindergarten buddy from her senior year is now a student in Engle’s math class as well as a player on the Mustangs field hockey team that Engle now coaches.
Engle earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Yale University. Her brainpower contributed to the construction of CERN’s (European Organization for Nuclear Research) Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, which has enabled historic discoveries in physics. She has scholarly publications to her name, a decade of tutoring experience and high-level Spanish skills.
And she wants nothing more than to put this impressive resume to work as a CA Upper School math teacher.
“Being back feels so right,” she says. “I’ve always said Colorado Academy is home for me. I’m doing the thing that I love at a place for which I have the utmost respect.”
A love for teaching
Not only does Engle love her alma mater, but she is head over heels for teaching. While she enjoyed her studies and research in mechanical engineering, she prefers the classroom to the research lab.
“For me, without the teaching and tutoring component, engineering was completely dissatisfying,” she says.
Engle started tutoring students when she was one herself, a freshman at Yale University. Since then, she has offered private tutoring, created curriculum materials and provided standardized test preparation for high school students.
“Teaching is what I’ve always wanted to be doing,” she says.
Giving the gift of math
Much of Engle’s love for teaching stems directly from her experiences as a student at CA, particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subject areas.
“Math always made sense to me,” she says. “Being a woman in STEM is rare, but I didn’t set out to break boundaries or be cutting edge. It was just what I was interested in—and it all started at CA.”
She remembers her fourth-grade math teacher recognizing that she and some classmates had extraordinary mathematical curiosity, so she taught them algebra in addition to the regular math lessons.
Through the years, as CA’s math curriculum progressed in complexity, Engle didn’t feel anxious or intimidated. She says CA teachers instilled in her the idea that math is approachable, fun, and creative—instead of difficult and frightening.
“Everything that happened at CA has led me to this point,” she says. “I’m so appreciative, and through teaching, I want to give other students the chance to explore a passion that they can run with.”
Some things stay the same
A native of Littleton, CO, Engle started her CA student career in 1993 as a pre-schooler. She went on to lead the golf team to two state championships, star on the field hockey team and graduate with a 4.02 grade point average.
Twenty-five years after she first entered CA’s doors, she’s impressed with the many ways CA’s technology profile has evolved. She remembers the time when a 1-to-1 tablet-to-student ratio was unheard of. But she’s even more impressed with the things that haven’t changed.
“There’s always been something so welcoming about CA and the communal support of the campus community,” she says. “The level of support that I’m experiencing as a new faculty member has been amazing and echoes what I received as a student.”
She loves that programs like the Senior-Kindergarten Buddy program are still around. She gets to see her own Kindergarten buddy, sophomore Olivia Myles, both in the classroom and on the field hockey pitch.
“It’s amazing—the last time I saw her, she was tiny and 5 years old, and now she has her driver’s permit,” Engle says.
Myles still remembers being that nervous Kindergartener who met her Senior buddy and felt “comforted because she was so nice.” She has kept a gift that Engle gave her—a stuffed bunny. Last summer, she heard rumors that Engle was coming back to teach, and when she saw her schedule, she knew that she would be reunited with her Senior buddy—this time in the classroom.
“She is a great teacher,” Myles says. “She is visual and I am too, so that helps me learn. I feel like she has a real connection with CA and enjoys being here.” Now, Myles is looking forward to becoming a Senior buddy and continuing the chain of mentorship, a CA tradition that helps explain why Engle is happy to return.
“All of these things that make CA a vibrant and welcoming community haven’t gone away,” she says. “So, my return feels so comfortable, like a natural progression. But you still might catch me calling the Upper School principal “Dr. Vogels” instead of his first name, Jon!”