#17 AP Biology with David Knuffke


David Knuffke

Biology teacher, AP Biology Community moderator


(Deer Park High School — Deer Park, NY) 

Resource of the Week:
Poems By Heart from Penguin Classics – Penguin Group USA
poems by heart

Each new poem you learn becomes an important part of you who are, and the Huffington Post describes Poems By Heart as “the best poetry app I’ve seen in a while.”

Poems By Heart uses brain-training techniques to make remembering poetry easy and fun – in a fast and responsive game. The National Endowment for the Arts calls the app “smart and beautifully designed, with a skillful blend of iconic poetry, memorization techniques, and great gaming.”


 Segment I – Background and Inspiration

Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught? 

knuffke– David teaches Biology at Deer Park High School on Long Island. It was his first and only teaching job. He was hired in 2004. He works at a great district primarily because it doesn’t put a lot of obstacles in front him to prevent him from teaching. 

 Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher? 

– His father taught biology for his entire career. He became a good sounding board when David had questions or concerns, especially early on in his career. It has been nice to have that basis to grow and develop from the beginning.

It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience.

– He’s had all sorts of lessons that he thought would be great that just fell short. Early in his career he had info-dense lessons. He thought science was going to drive kids through it. He also realized that his style wouldn’t reach certain kids. It helped him realize that it was equally him as well as the students that create the learning equation.  

Why is literacy, and particularly, literacy in sciences important?

– Science is all about information literacy. It is about assimilating information from all different sources. If a student can’t parse through information in a literate capacity, students will face difficulties. Students need to use science to make meaning of the world.   

What is one thing that you love about the classroom?

 – David loves everything about being in the classroom,. It is the greatest job that he could possibly have. He appreciates the freedoms that he has in his district. He has the ability to make his job what he wants to make it. He’s moved to standards-based grading and other things that have been supported and encouraged.  

Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies


 What book do you recommend to a developing teacher? 

— The major book that David can point to is Teaching As a Subversive Activity. While it is beneficial to science teachers, David also recommends it to anyone that is interested in an inquiry-based approach to teaching should look at this book.  


What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom?

— Particularly in science, it is important to stay interested in the discipline. David has been removed from his proper education in biology for over a decade and it has moved so rapidly since then. He also believes is staying curious as a learner. Teachers should be willing to look for new things and try new things in their professional life. One more thing is to do the work. David tries to write everyday. And even though he is critical of his own blogging, he believes it is important to do it and et it out there. 

 Is there an internet resource that you can recommend which will help teachers grow professionally?

– Dave subscribes to his content list serve run by a state school. The College Board also set up teacher communities. He runs the AP Biology list serve, which is not exclusive to AP teachers. Anyone that wants to dig in and learn can be a member. The other major powerful tool is Twitter. David believes it is transforming the way teachers connect.

What does good writing look like in a biology class?

 – It is clear, precise, and demonstrates a set of expectations that are universal in science writing. It uses evidence to support claims in a logical and coherent manner. Good science writing is true to good modes of writing in general. It is all about clarity, precision, organization and evidence. 

What reading should be a part of the science curriculum?

— Science should diminish the textbook as a sort of tome. They are moving toward an open-source textbook through Rice University to do away with monstrous back breakers. Published science papers may be too dense for high school students, but he uses Popular Science or Scientific American because they are intellectual yet approachable. Those are good places to get readings that are not so dense that students will get lost in dense jargon.

Follow David on Twitter