When I am not teaching...

Whitby faculty are lifelong learners. It goes without saying that they continue to research, test, and implement new ways to enhance student learning in the classroom. But what each teacher brings to the classroom goes beyond educational enrichment and encompasses personal curiosity, life lessons, and expertise in some very interesting areas.

Learn more about our faculty and find out what they are doing when they are not teaching.

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Vittoria Sondo: The Science of Baking

Science and baking sound like a perfect combination. But what came first, the love of science or the love of baking?

Science came first. As I think back, it was after graduate school when I started teaching that I discovered baking. It’s a relaxing activity, and the preciseness required for the perfect cookie plays to the science part of me.

As an undergraduate, I took many chemistry classes, an exact science that involves all the senses – what you see, how something smells, sounds, and feels. In that respect, it is very similar to baking. Unlike cooking, where you can add a dash of this or a pinch of that, the ratios between flour, sugar, and other ingredients need to be right to get, for example, the perfect rise. And it’s not just the science – the end product tastes really good.

Your original path was not teaching. What changed your trajectory?

I was a science major in both undergraduate and graduate school. My original plan was to work in ecology or field-based work, which can be a very solitary endeavor. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to teach as a TA that I found it was something I really enjoyed, particularly sharing my passion for science and the ability to connect with people. Middle school, it turns out, is the sweet spot for me.

Now that you are teaching middle school students at Whitby, did you have to check your passion for baking “at the door?”IMG_3178 (1)

Absolutely not. Faculty are encouraged to share their skills with students by creating extracurricular and enrichment programs for the students. So, starting the Cookie Club was a natural thing for me to do, and the kids, both boys and girls, loved it. I originally offered it to the 5th and 6th graders and then expanded it to all interested middle school students. They thought it was pretty cool to be able to create, bake and then eat the results. The classes were relaxing after a rigorous day in the classroom, but the kids also began to understand that baking required discipline and accuracy. There were plenty of teaching moments when I would bring science and math into the discussion, but not at the risk of sacrificing the “fun” factor.

When all classes moved to remote learning in Spring of 2020, the Cookie Club also went remote via Zoom, which worked out surprisingly well. We all got a kick out of seeing each other in our own kitchens. Although we were teaching in-person this school year, extracurriculars were limited to cohorts, so there was no Cookie Club. The students, however, did not lose interest in baking, and they still send me recipes and tell me about what they baked. I am hopeful that we can get the Cookie Club up and running again in 2021.

Do you think that exposing middle school students to baking has impacted their interest in science?

I don't know if it's increased their interest in science, but I think they recognize that, unlike cooking where you can take a pinch of this or a dash of that, baking requires greater precision and planning. So, in that regard, I think they can see the similarities in how we prepare for a scientific investigation that requires a certain sequence of steps. More importantly, though, the students begin to understand that what they learn in the classroom provides them with the knowledge and skills that they can apply to everyday activities. That is something that is fundamental for how Whitby approaches teaching and preparing our students how to operate and be successful in the real world. 

Faculty are encouraged to share their skills with students by creating extracurricular and enrichment programs for the students. So, starting the Cookie Club was a natural thing for me to do, and the kids loved it. 

Vittoria Sondo

Middle School Science Teacher

Here are two of Ms. Sondo's favorite recipes.

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