AACT Member Spotlight: Daniel D. Dulek
By AACT on June 7, 2023
Every month AACT spotlights a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month, we spotlight Daniel D. Dulek. He teaches chemistry and AP Chemistry at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in Palos Hills, IL.
Tell us about yourself.
I have been teaching chemistry at Stagg High School for 23 years. I met my wife, Laurie, at Stagg, and I proposed to her in her classroom. We have two great kids, Aaron and Annabelle.
My decision to become a teacher put my life on a trajectory I never could have imagined. Getting here was quite a journey. I’m not doing badly for a kid who dropped out of high school and only took one science class. I’m the son of an alcoholic father. My dad was verbally abusive, and as a result, I had very low self-esteem. When I was a child, both my parents abused drugs and were both very distant and neglectful. I can’t remember either of them ever asking me how school was. This lack of support at home ultimately left me with no interest in school, and I ended up dropping out. Eventually, I got my GED and a teaching degree. My dad never cleaned himself up, but my mom did, and she is doing great.
Now, I’m very happy and have a wonderful family. I love reading, watching movies/TV shows with the family, playing board games, and painting miniatures.
I have been an AACT member for many years; I have contributed several Chemistry Solutions articles and have also worked as a peer reviewer.
Why did you become a teacher? Did you always want to teach?
Teaching was never a career I intended to pursue. My original plan was to get a degree in technology, programming or IT. While waiting for one of my classes to start, I overheard a science lecture. I had always been interested in science and had room in my schedule for one more course. On a whim, I decided to take an introductory science class, and I soon realized I wanted to pursue a degree in science. I abandoned all thoughts of a career in tech, and the next semester I took chemistry, biology, physics, and geology.
Dr. Mark Churchill taught my first chemistry course. His enthusiasm and passion for chemistry inspired me to pursue a degree in chemistry. One day, Dr. Churchill asked me if I had ever considered becoming a teacher. He said he thought I would make a great teacher because I was good at explaining concepts to the other students. I thought he was crazy, but the seed was planted. About a year later, in my organic chemistry course, I would see the sanity in Dr. Churchill’s idea. A few of my peers and I would meet in the library to work on organic chemistry homework. It was during these sessions that I became passionate about teaching. Once I arrived at a solution to a problem, I liked explaining my work to my peers. I enjoyed their reactions when they finally understood. Many of my peers also encouraged me to go into education because they thought I was a good teacher, and I had finally gained the confidence to believe them.
What is your approach to building a meaningful relationship with your students and their parents?
I’m not sure what my approach is. I don’t think it’s anything special. I just treat my students as I do everyone else. I treat them with respect and show my concern for them. One of the things I try to do is remember they are only teenagers. I think many teachers and parents expect too much of them. I try to remember what it was like to be a teenager, and I tell myself that kids today have more stress and pressure on them than we did as teenagers.
What are you most proud of in your work?
I’m most proud of a TED-Ed video that I created: “How Big is a Mole?” I love showing it to my students, and I really had a great time making it.
Why did you become involved with AACT? What are the benefits of being involved?
I thought that I had a few ideas to share, and I like contributing in ways that could make teaching better for all. I love the ideas that are exchanged on the AACT website. The community of teachers is outstanding, and they all have such great ideas. I try to be an innovative teacher, and I like to try new things in the classroom. Some have worked, and others have not. Teaching can sometimes be a lonely profession, but being a member of the AACT has helped me feel less isolated. It’s nice to know that there are other teachers out there like me who want to make a difference!
In three words, what would your students say they learned from you?
“Never give up!”