AACT Member Spotlight: Christine Taylor
By AACT on November 2, 2022
Every month AACT spotlights a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month, we spotlight Christine Taylor. She teaches chemistry and AP Chemistry at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, SC.
Tell us about yourself.
I teach AP Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, and IB Higher Level Chemistry at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, SC. I also serve as the Science Department Chair for grades 5–12. In my "spare time," I work as a Learning Design Coach and Medical Problem Solving instructor for Global Online Academy. I earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Education from Clemson University, Clemson SC. I am a proud wife of a teacher and football coach, mother of three, and Gigi to two amazing toddlers.
Why did you become a teacher? Did you always want to teach?
I have always enjoyed learning and science. I had wonderful science teachers that encouraged me to question and discover new things. During college, I really felt at home with chemistry but hated working in research. Lab work was tedious and often isolating so I determined that teaching would be a good way to share my love of chemistry. Teaching, though demanding, is a rewarding career.
What are you most proud of in your work?
I am extremely proud of my reputation of not only being an excellent chemistry teacher but as being a teacher that cares about her students. When students know that you truly care about them as an individual they will work hard for you. One of the things my AP students look forward to each year is the "Pizza and Panic" party at my house the weekend before the exam. They work on practice problems, help one another, and get questions clarified. I think it helps ease some of their anxiety about the exams.
Why did you become involved with AACT? What are the benefits of being involved?
I became involved with AACT to learn from others and share my ideas and best practices. I have enjoyed working with so many talented teachers on projects with AACT. I think that all chemistry educators should join AACT. It is an excellent way to connect with others and improve chemistry instruction. The biggest way that I remain current and bring the latest science into my classroom is through the large network of amazing science teachers that I follow on Twitter. It is so powerful to have such a growing and compassionate community of educators striving to offer quality education and experiences to students. It is typically through these educators that I share and observe ideas, news, activities, labs, and demonstrations that are relevant to my students' lives. Additionally, I try and keep up on social media and introduce chemistry through the lens of interesting topics that are “trending.”
What topic do you find hardest for students? How do you teach it?
It can vary from year to year and the level of students. In AP Chemistry, many students struggle with acid/base chemistry. I spend a lot of time and practice with titration curves going through each portion of the curve. The students also must draw particle diagrams showing what is happening from before the titration through to the excess reagent. Although no longer required for AP Chemistry, I believe it helps student understanding to complete the titration calculations along the curve.
In first-year chemistry, students struggle through several topics since it is all new for them. I make sure to teach things using a lot of different activities. For many topics, I start with a POGIL activity to get them thinking about how concepts connect. I also incorporate lab as often as possible to allow students to observe phenomena and think critically requiring them to begin with a guiding questions and complete claim, evidence and reasoning for each lab. Adding in PHET simulations when topics are hard to see macroscopically is helpful, especially when teaching atomic theory.
How do you monitor the progress of your students? How do you ensure underperformers excel?
A lot of formative assessment helps me monitor student understanding. I recommend Page Keely's books on science formative assessment activities. I also give feedback early and often when students learn new topics and encourage struggling students to come in for extra help. Teaching students how to connect with a topic through different activities: POGIL, PHET, Lab experiments, and note-taking improves their ability to find meaning in chemistry.
What is your approach to building a meaningful relationship with your students and their parents?
I am so blessed to be a part of an amazing community at Christ Church where relationship-building is a large part of our identity. I spend a lot of time getting to know students and reaching out to parents often. I make sure to speak to every student during class time. I encourage students to do their best and try to instill that making mistakes is a part of chemistry as well as life. Part of relationship building is being willing to show vulnerability. Allowing students to see that I also make mistakes and do not know all the answers seems to help them feel safer about opening up in our class. It may sound cliche, but showing up for sporting events, concerts, plays, etc. goes a long way in strengthening relationships with both students and parents.
What do you do to remain current and bring the latest science into the classroom?
One thing is attending professional development opportunities including webinars through AACT, ChemEd conferences, IB Conferences, and NSTA conferences. Additionally, I am an AP Chemistry Exam reader which has allowed me to develop a wonderful team of other teachers which connect daily. Together we have grown into a team of teachers from all over the country that provide ideas, critique, and support to one another.
What fuels your passion for science and teaching?
Oh by far the students, their enthusiasm for learning chemistry is contagious. I really get a lot of joy when chemistry comes together for a student who has struggled. They never cease to amaze me with the questions they come up with when we are learning a new topic. I enjoy showing them chemistry through demonstrations and watching them light up with wonder.
In three words, what would your students say they learned from you?
Never give up!