Teacher Feature: Jennifer Merritt

Uma Bhatia and Madison Duong

LBHS teacher Jennifer Merritt has changed the lives of countless students through her bright energy and her immense dedication to providing the best education for her students. She teaches AP Physics 1, a class intended to give students an overview of a first-year College Physics course. More recently, Merritt also began teaching Engineering, a class that explores the math and science behind making products for consumers. 

“I have had the pleasure of being close friends with Mrs. Merritt since she first started teaching here 20 years ago. I deeply admire the ease with which she is able to teach difficult concepts to her students while still maintaining a gentle touch. She puts so much time and effort into making her Engineering and AP Physics classes relevant and engaging through incorporating interactive activities made with her students in mind,” said Valorie Quigley, math teacher at LBHS.

Merritt knew she wanted to study some branch of physics in high school. She began with astrophysics which fascinated her but soon realized that the major didn’t fit her social personality. By junior year in college, Merritt figured out that she wanted to teach after getting some experience. In teaching, Merritt has the perfect career to balance her outgoing personality and her love for science. 

“I had a physics professor who would go around to middle and elementary schools and do physics assemblies to try to get kids interested in science. He needed some assistance, and I needed a job, so I took the job and I loved it,” said Merritt. “I started helping out in high schools in Santa Ana. I would be a teacher helper in classrooms there, and I found I got to pair a love of the science I have with being able to interact with people because I’m a people-person.”

One of the two courses Merritt teaches, AP Physics, is an algebra-based class so anyone who knows the fundamentals of algebra has all the math curriculum necessary to be able to succeed in AP Physics 1. However, it is a rigorous course that requires commitment to the subject. 

“It is akin to a college-level course in terms of the rigor and what I’m expecting students to do at home, in terms of the lab analysis, so it definitely gives students exposure to what a college-level class feels like, but with a little bit of a tender touch from a high school teacher,” said Merritt. “I can’t guarantee an A, but if you’re a diligent student who wants to do well, you can get a B in the class.”

Even though AP Physics is a lot of hard work, once students get used to the workload, the class is enriching. Merritt herself developed a deep passion for physics during her years in school, which she aims to pass on to her students every year. 

“This was the first class where I had to put effort into it, and it was so much more rewarding when things were clicking. That was when I fell in love with it,” said Merritt. “I loved that everything around us could be modeled with math. You could predict and see patterns. I found that so fascinating.”

To build on her enthusiasm for science and education, Merritt began teaching Engineering at LBHS five years ago. She wanted to provide students who didn’t want to take a time-consuming course such as AP Physics or AP Biology with an alternative physical science application that’s not at an honors level. 

“The way I run the class is like an engineering firm. Every unit, companies come to us with a product they need. We look at budget constraints, which limit what materials we could use. Then, we look at the optics of how you could even make the product,” said Merritt.

Along with teaching an Engineering course, Merritt also advises the Engineering Club as well as Club ROC. Whether it’s bobbing for apples at school assemblies or advising clubs for her students, she is always involved in school activities. She motivates everyone around her to be the best version of themselves that they can be. 

“Mrs. Merritt has always been a source of immense positivity and inspiration for me. She enjoys sharing her baking adventures with the staff. Most Fridays, she brings her latest concoction for all of us,” said Quigley.

Merritt makes an effort every day to make herself and everyone around her as happy as they can be. 

“Every day, you have a choice, and I try to choose joy. If you don’t make that choice, then you’re just going to have a bitter life,” said Merritt. “I have no problem being goofy and silly if it’s going to help someone else choose joy. And I try to make the way I teach and the way I interact with my students help them choose joy too.”