Biology teacher Chris Azar set to retire to the lab


Joe Williams

Azar helps Junior Maggie Morse during his Honors Biotechnical Engineering class

After 16 years of teaching, 2016 is set to be the last for Biology teacher Dr. Chris Azar. Azar announced that he is retiring at the end of the school year after having spent eight years as a biology teacher at Parkway West.

“I’m retiring because I have the opportunity to go back and do research at Washington University,” Azar said.  “I’m going to work on placental cells and do research into how stress on placental cells may cause premature pregnancy termination.”

Aware of Azar’s decision before most of the school, his AP Biology student, senior Lily McMorrow took the opportunity to post silhouettes of Azar’s face on science classroom doors in tribute.

“I was very disheartened, but I was glad he achieved his dream job,” senior Nick Santangelo said.

By retiring from teaching, Azar has the opportunity to conduct scientific research in the same laboratory as his wife, Julie, and is thus returning to how he began his career.

“I got my Ph.D in molecular and cell biology and biochemistry, and then I worked on childhood cancer called neuroblastoma. When I went into industry I worked with growth factors to help with wound healing,” Azar said.  “I was doing research and I got burnt out on that. I liked the parts of that job where I was teaching people about what I did, so I decided to be a teacher.”

Once Azar decided to become a teacher, he spent eight years at Gateway Tech before he became part of the Parkway West science department in 2008. Next fall, AP Biology will be taught by current Biology teacher Sally Soulier.

“I found out that Dr. Azar was retiring and then teachers were discussing who would then take the classes he teaches,” Soulier said. “I volunteered; there were not a lot of people who were stepping up to do that.”

Though she has four science certifications and almost 10 years of teaching experience, Soulier still has uncertainties about the new class.

“I will be doing labs I have never done with students before so that’s always a pretty big challenge for a science teacher,” Soulier said. “It’s like exploring a place you haven’t been before, you’re excited but you’re nervous.”

Soulier will also take control of the science honors association, Beta Chi Pi, which is presently sponsored by Azar. Senior Milan Malhotra is the current club president.

“The mission of Beta Chi Pi is just to acknowledge those students who achieve and excel in the sciences.” Malhotra said. “Azar has taught me to be a better leader by giving me independence, but I think Soulier will be more involved.”

Like Malhotra, Azar has confidence in his long time co-worker to succeed in her transition to teaching AP Biology and sponsoring Beta Chi Pi.

“She’ll be fine, she just needs to make sure she prepares well and knows what’s coming up. And she knows that, so she will be fine,” Azar said. “For Beta Chi Pi, the best advice I’d give her is to make sure she gets the kids to do as much as possible, which is much smoother.”

Azar, known by his students as a man of few words, says he will leave West with fond memories of the classroom.

“Teaching AP Bio was my favorite part of being here. I really liked that. I enjoy the kids and I enjoy the subject.”