AACT Member Spotlight: Jonte' Lee

By AACT on April 6, 2021

Katy Dornbos

Every month AACT spotlights a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month, we spotlight Jonte' Lee. He teaches chemistry and general science at Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington, D.C.

Tell us about yourself.

I've been teaching STEM in DC Public Schools for eight years. Before becoming a high school teacher, I've worked in the corporate sector as a marketing specialist. My first call to teaching was when I volunteered for the Big Brother Big Sister program where I read to my little brother twice a week. I liked it so much that I sought out to become a teacher. I first taught part-time at the college level in the school of business while still working in corporate America. I discovered the joy of teaching, and I wanted to do it full time. Through Ready To Teach, an alternative teaching certification program at Howard University, I earned my teaching license. Through teaching, I found my life's passion. I cannot see myself doing anything else. I enjoy making meaningful connections with students and pushing them academically forward. My greatest joy is seeing them grapple and learn a concept.

Why did you become a teacher? Did you always want to teach?

I always wanted to be a teacher. While other kids in the neighborhood played with action figures and toys, I played with textbooks. Teaching was something that I was born to do. Even though I loved to play" teaching", it wasn't until I saw the film "The Marva Collins Story" that served as my inspiration for becoming a teacher. Watching the way Marva Collins, played by Cicely Tyson, interacted with her students and how she pushed them forward academically was inspiring. I knew then that I wanted to become a teacher.

What topic do you find hardest for students? How do you teach it?

Chemistry in general is the hardest topic for students. I remember hating chemistry; balancing equations, memorizing formulas, and dimensional analysis made learning chemistry a chore. I don't want my students to have that same learning experience, which is why I teach chemistry from a cooking perspective. Using this method makes chemistry accessible for the students, and we get to have fun while we are learning.

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

I approach building meaningful relationships with students and families by using every opportunity to communicate and interact with them. For students, we do not teach only the brain of the student; we teach the whole child. I play games with them at lunch, ask how their day is going, check to see what their weekend plans are and follow up on Monday. These methods let the student know that I care. For families, I use every opportunity to communicate with them. I report on the good and the corrective. I communicate so much that families feel they are a part of my class!

What are you most proud of in your work?

My students. Watching a student grow both academically and socially-emotionally is my proudest moment. From the beginning of meeting a student, teachers are preparing them to say goodbye. We hope that we prepared them for the next step in their journey. It is a proud moment when a student comes back and says thank you, and they felt prepared.

In three words, what would your students say they learned from you?

Time management, hard work, and determination.