What Do You Do? I Teach Chemistry!

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  • What Do You Do? I Teach Chemistry!Gregory T. Rushton*

    Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia 30144, United States

    ABSTRACT: Championing my profession as a member of the chemistry teaching community isnot something I have always done well, but over time, I am recognizing how proud I am to be apart of it. As a new precollege associate editor, this editorial shares a bit of my history as well asmy hopes for the Journal and the community JCE serves.

    KEYWORDS: Elementary/Middle School Science, High School/Introductory Chemistry, Public Understanding/Outreach

    Have you noticed when meeting people for the first timethat we are often given the opportunity to share the newsthat we teach chemistry for a living? How many different wayshave you found yourself answering that question depending onwho was asking? After several uncomfortable exchanges in myearly years of high school teaching that included responses fromstrangers such as, I hated chemistry! or I never understoodchemistry!, I found myself dropping the chemistry part ofchemistry teacher in my job title most of the time... and Ibecame simply a teacher. If further probing ensued,substituting science for chemistry helped me to avoidhaving to apologize for the persons traumatic high school orcollege experience that I felt somehow partially responsible forsimply by my association with others who cared about thenumbers 6.02 1023, 22.4, and 273.15 as much as I did. I lookback with regret on those choices to deny, rather than embrace,defend, and advocate for that identity as a chemistry teacher.Today I still have those same encounters, although now it is

    rare that I give a second thought to enthusiastically responding,I teach chemistry! when asked. The difference? Now Irecognize the value and effect that the intense and intentionalinteractions over the years with my students, colleagues, andother stakeholders (parents, administrators, etc.) can have; howteaching can stimulate personal, emotional, intellectual, andeven spiritual development in many profound and rewardingways. Simply put, I believe that I am a much better friend, son,brother, husband, and father today because I have been achemistry teacher these past 15 years, and it is not difficult forme to tell others how I and others have benefited from thatdecision.I share this observation with you because in my role with the

    Journal it is critical for me to learn about the needs of thethousands of talented, dedicated, passionate chemistry teachersthat this publication seeks to serve. Collectively, as theprecollege team, we are anxious to learn what kinds of content

    we can provide to best meet your professional expectations sothat you can serve your increasingly diverse and challengingstudent populations with the highest quality learningexperiences possible. If you believe that JCEs precollege teamunderstands your needs and can meet them, then you will likelycontinue the conversation with us as you have with Erica andLaura in the past. The success of the Journals precollege teamdepends on your trust in us, and I hope we can promote thattrust through our efforts in listening and acting on what we hearfrom you.Over the next few months, I intend to share some ideas with

    you about directions the precollege team of the Journal maytake and what new initiatives are being considered. Throughoutmy involvement as a JCE precollege associate editor, Iencourage you to provide your feedback about those ideas.Two of the first topics that I will most likely address are thesubstantive changes to the advanced placement (AP) chemistrycurriculum1 and the rollout of the Next Generation ScienceStandards2 as they are expected to influence what and how wechemistry educators teach in our classrooms in ways many of usmay not be fully prepared for at present.In closing, I offer this brief account of my school and

    teaching background to help you to get to know me a bit, andto serve as a starting point for some productive conversationsabout the future direction of the precollege efforts at JCE.Although born in Phoenix, Arizona, I grew up in Southern

    California and engaged in typical sports of that region: surfing,swimming, and water polo. Most of my friends in high schoolstayed in California for college, but I decided to try CarnegieMellon in Pittsburgh, where I began as a chemical engineeringmajor in 1989. I am proud to say I lasted almost two wholePennsylvanian winters before I gave in to homesickness and

    Published: March 16, 2012



    2012 American Chemical Society andDivision of Chemical Education, Inc. 563 dx.doi.org/10.1021/ed300019g | J. Chem. Educ. 2012, 89, 563564


  • transferred to USC (University of Southern California), wherethe waves were only a few miles from campus and I could seemy family more than twice a year. In 1993, I completed a B.A.in chemistry degree and worked as an environmental chemistuntil I moved to Columbia, South Carolina, to get married andpursue my dream of teaching high school chemistry. InColumbia, I taught at two different high schools, one in a ruralschool on the outskirts of town, and one in the suburbs, for atotal of seven years. I mostly taught on-level, honors, and APchemistry; I also taught some other subjects, such as physics,physical science, and statistics. During that time, I went back toschool to earn a Masters in Education degree in secondaryscience, and I was awarded National Board Certification in2000. In 2001, while still teaching, I was admitted to thedoctoral program at the other USC, the University of SouthCarolina, where I studied physical organic chemistry and sharedour groups work through two undergraduate laboratoryexperiments published in this Journal.3,4

    I did not necessarily intend to leave high school teachingwhen I was finished with graduate school; however, uponfinishing (Ph.D.) in 2004, I was offered what has turned out tobe pretty close to the dream position. The college of sciencedean at Kennesaw State University at that time wanted thechemistry department to take a more active role in recruiting,preparing, and retaining chemistry teachers and wanted to hirefaculty into positions to do so. For the last eight years, nowwith two additional full-time faculty devoted to chemistryeducation, I have been privileged to work with a large chemistryteacher preparation program and many secondary teachers inthe local school systems throughout the metropolitan Atlantaarea to promote high quality teaching and learning in our K12chemistry classrooms.I am excited to be a part of what is happening at the Journal

    and in the precollege chemistry community and invite yourquestions or comments at grushton@jce.acs.org.

    AUTHOR INFORMATIONCorresponding Author

    *E-mail: grushton@jce.acs.org.

    REFERENCES(1) College Board AP Chemistry Curriculum Framework, 20132014 (copyright 2011). http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/11_3461_AP_CF_Chemistry_WEB_110930.pdf (accessed Mar 2012).(2) Next Generation Science Standards Home Page. http://www.nextgenscience.org/ (accessed Mar 2012).(3) Rushton, G. T.; Furmanski, B.; Shimizu, K. D. Plastic Antibodies:Molecular Recognition with Imprinted Polymers. An IntroductoryPolymer Chemistry Laboratory Investigation. J. Chem. Educ. 2005, 82(9), 13741377.(4) Rushton, G. T.; Burns, W. G.; Lavin, J. M.; Chong, Y. S.;Pellechia, P.; Shimizu, K. D. Determination of the Rotational Barrierfor Kinetically Stable Conformational Isomers via NMR and 2D TLC.J. Chem. Educ. 2007, 84 (9), 14991501.

    Journal of Chemical Education Editorial

    dx.doi.org/10.1021/ed300019g | J. Chem. Educ. 2012, 89, 563564564



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