AACT Member Spotlight: Jeanette Stewart

By AACT on January 4, 2022

Jeanette Stewart

Every month AACT spotlights a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month, we spotlight Jeanette Stewart. She teaches Chemistry and AP Chemistry at Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia.

Share a story from your past that led to your choosing your field of work

When I was in graduate school, I was the only one not complaining about the teaching duty we had to do to earn our stipend. I liked my research, but I loved my teaching. It was a hard decision to change my career path, but it changed my life for the better. I love being around teenagers and the energy of a school. Knowing that I'm helping them figure out what they were put here to do fills me with pride. As teachers, we know that our work is meaningful. We shape lives in ways that we will never know. I'm so blessed to be called to do this work!

How do you monitor the progress of your students? How do you ensure underperformers excel?

I assess frequently in my AP Chemistry class and allow students to do test corrections. I'm a true believer in "Chem Is Try." I don't want a poor test performance to demotivate my students. I require the students to do the corrections after school, and there are some students who I know would never stay behind for tutorial if it wasn't for the opportunity to earn additional credit. These tutorial sessions allow me to see how students are taking notes and approaching problem-solving. I can also give them more individualized advice than I can in class. They also get to meet other students who may be struggling on the same topic and form study groups. The study groups help them build positive friendships with people they can struggle with and succeed with.

What is your approach to building a meaningful relationship with your students and their parents?

Chemistry is difficult enough so I don't have to be. I try to be kinder than necessary when I interact with struggling students and parents. Offering grace to students and parents when they are in distress goes a long way. They need to know that I can empathize with their struggles and want them to succeed. That means that I will hold them accountable academically while offering the supports they need to reach the goals they have set. Knowing that I care and put in extra hours just like they do helps to build a partnership in learning. I don't pretend like learning and teaching chemistry is easy. We all have to continually put in the effort and make adjustments.

Why did you become involved with AACT? What are the benefits of being involved?

I was dragging my feet on joining until my friend Alice Putti encouraged me to finally join. Alice is an outstanding educator and all-around chemistry teaching genius so I took her advice. It was the best thing I could have done coming back to virtual and hybrid teaching. I found so many resources and activities that were useful for both my regular and AP Chemistry classes.

What are you most proud of in your work?

I'm most proud when students come to visit when they are home on break from college and tell me how easy it is. They consistently say that AP Chemistry was the toughest class they ever took, but college has been a breeze. They discuss being amazed by how much chemistry they remember and that they are able to tutor their classmates.