Photo from Lakehead University

High-spirited, enthusiastic, involved, and encouraging are all words used to describe University of Wisconsin-Superior’s professor, Rachel Portinga. Her time on campus is spent teaching environmental science, biological inquiring, anatomy and physiology, along with various other courses. Portinga always brings a positive attitude to her classes, and gives students the tools they need to succeed.

Sawyer Morgan was a member of her Biology 100 class and said, “Rachel is very knowledgeable in her field and brings a high amount of energy and fun into her lectures.” Keeping students engaged can be difficult in some college classrooms, but in Portinga’s class, students are actively listening. She presents material in memorable ways, and makes real life connections to help students succeed in her classes. Morgan continued, “She knows her students very well. She goes out of her way to get to know them, and does what she can to help them succeed.” This includes offering different study techniques for various learning styles.

Portinga understands the importance of various learning styles. “I didn’t like science in high school, and I didn’t think of it as a career possibility until college,” Portinga said.

She realized she found enjoyment in ecology readings during her undergrad while her peers dreaded them. Portinga was fascinated by how everything we do influences the things around us. She translates these connections to her classroom, making sure to relate topics to students’ lives. Portinga said, “you can totally tell when an entire room is engaged in what you are teaching; seeing students really engage in material is rewarding.”

Rachel Portinga’s involvement on campus also extends far beyond her classroom. She is actively involved in the campus band and plays the French horn.

Teaching has been a stepping stone in Portinga’s life. Her passion and energy give students a new perspective on sciences and spark interest in those who were previously uninterested.

When asked what her favorite part of her job is, she said, “seeing students succeed.” Teaching has been enjoyable for Portinga, but she has decided to go back to school. She is going to pursue a doctorate in health sciences at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Portinga could see herself in many different professions, and has not yet decided if she will return to teaching, but her interactions with her students will always be treasured. She has always been drawn to Lake Superior, and she anticipates her future will involve its watershed sustainability.

Portinga has positively affected the lives of many UWS students, and the university wishes her the best of luck on wherever life may take her.