Changing plans

Before Pelletier was a teacher, she was a prospective medical student — until things didn’t go as planned


Mackenzie Sroka

Leah Pelletier, a science instructor who teaches Honors Principles of Biomedical Science, Honors Medical Interventions and Medical Residency, has found that teaching bridges her passion for science and nurturing people.

Vanessa Moreno, Staff Writer

Before Leah Pelletier was a biomedical science teacher, she was an aspiring pediatrician.

That is, until all eight medical schools she applied to rejected her. Or maybe it was seven — one got lost in the mail.

Pelletier has been teaching Honors Principles of Biomedical Science, Honors Medical Interventions and Medical Residency at MCHS for ten years. But before that, she studied health science at Benedictine University to prepare for medical school. 

“It took me a long time to even open up about [medical school rejection],” she says. “You don’t want to talk about your failure always.”

After her obstacles, Pelletier chose to pursue a career combining her love for science and working with kids: education, which would allow her to build relationships, something she looked for in a career.

“I was already starting to realize with shadow experiences that the relationship piece as a doctor wasn’t really there,” Pelletier says. “Whereas I’m sure you’ve experienced here with teachers, [there’s] a relationship you get to build.”

Pelletier got her teaching license and master’s at National Louis University. She chose secondary education since the age group is at an exciting point in life. Plus, she doesn’t have to wipe anyone’s boogers.

“I always say I peaked in high school,” she jokes. “I had a great high school experience. I like to bring that sense of community and fun-family feel I experienced to my classroom.”

Throughout the years, Pelletier has inspired students academically and beyond. Her classes are different and engaging, describes senior Rin Justin.

“Mrs. Pelletier is really nice and likes to joke around with us [to] keep things engaging,” Justin says. “She has made me even more interested in medicine and [inspires] me to be as cheerful as she always is.”

At MCHS, Pelletier had a role in developing the biomedical program, which explores real-world medical issues. She was a proponent of the Upper Campus Science, Technology and Industry wing.

“I was part of figuring out the classes we would adopt into it,” she says. “I was the teacher voice in the beginning stages of it. It was pretty cool to see it grow into what it is now.”

Whether it be through classes, shadowing or labs, Pelletier hopes her classes prepare students for future endeavors. 

“I plan on pursuing a career in medicine after I graduate,” Justin adds. “Before high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. After I started biomed classes, I realized medicine was my passion.”

As rewarding as teaching is for Pelletier, it can come with its struggles. She cites society believing teachers were lazy during the pandemic as a ‘downer.’

“It was so opposite from the truth,” she says. “Just having that depreciation for how much you put into your career can be a downer some days. Trying to tune that out has been a struggle.”

Though Pelletier has encountered obstacles, she now draws on her experiences to help students. She helps them realize that they, too, can learn and grow from setbacks. 

“I always tell them, ‘We wouldn’t be having this conversation if I didn’t fail at that’ … You can move on past failures and be where you are,” she concludes.