What a ride: Dani Moore’s journey to DC

Adin McGurk and Maya Wilson

Dani Moore was really excited about her spring break. She was going to Miami, seeing a high school friend in New York, having dinner with her family, and still managing to leave some time to herself. “I think it’s going to be great. I have all these adventures, but I also have time to organize my sock drawer,” she said on the Friday before break. We took this opportunity to laugh at her. “[Socks] are in really good real estate in my bedroom right now, and I want that for other things,” she said, coming to her own defense. “The socks have to go someplace else.”

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of learning about the sciences of life with her, you understand that her outlook on vacation is completely characteristic of her approach to teaching, and life in general.

Moore enjoyed a childhood of playing teacher and wandering around the woods alone, pretending she was an orphan surviving on fungus. “One of the things you have to do is make a roster and make sure you invented last names for everybody so you can have fun taking attendance,” Moore said. “Imagine what childhood you think Dr. Moore had, and that is the childhood I had,” she finished with a laugh.

It would follow that Moore knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. But her path to Wilson was far from linear.

“It took me a long time to recognize that I really wanted to be a teacher, partly due to my mom’s influence. She came from a generation where if you were a smart girl, your options were be a nurse or be a teacher,” Moore explained. “Every time I was like, well maybe I’m interested in teaching, she’d be like, ‘you can be anything! Why would you want to be a teacher?’” Her mother fancied a more scientific path for Moore.

Through graduate school, Moore continued on that scientific path, immersing herself in her work—never actually needing to survive on fungus, though. “I loved spending my twenties hiking around the desert looking at bugs, and I loved the travel I got to do and the really interesting people I got to meet and the really interesting perspective I have on science that I got from getting to see how the sausage gets made.”

After studying ants for seven years, Moore was ready for a change of scenery. She biked across the country, from Arizona to DC and was struck by how kind Americans could be to random strangers.

It was in the phase of her ride through the southern United States that Moore found some clarity regarding her next steps, a moment that she describes annually on the first day of school as a part of her introduction for new students. “I credit this one day in Mississippi, and the sky had really puffy clouds in it and I was just really certain of what I wanted to do next, which was I wanted to be a teacher.”

Between biking in Mississippi to becoming a Wilson teacher, Moore worked at Prep Matters just across from the school’s front entrance, where she met and tutored Wilson students for standardized tests. It was through two of these students that Moore got her first inside look at Wilson teaching by shadowing former Biology teacher Jessie Poole.

After shadowing, Moore researched ways to get her teaching license, but going back to school was not her route of choice. “I was suspicious that I would either pay a lot for a really awesome educational training, or it would be very much like a checked box.” Luckily however, Moore was approached by the Wilson administration for a long term substitute job.

Given her current confidence in front of a classroom, you’d never guess it, but at one point, Moore was a mess. Her first week as a long-term sub was disastrous. On her first day, a student called her shoes ugly. “I was just completely shocked about going into a situation with the best intentions and then they were ruthless. Honestly talking about it, I’m flashing back to how I felt, and it was just so traumatic.”

Regardless, Moore obviously persevered. “One of my greatest strengths as a human being is that I’m very content to just be persistent.”