AACT Member Spotlight: Kevin Kopack

By AACT on December 1, 2021

Kevin Kopack

Every month AACT spotlights a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month, we spotlight Kevin Kopack. He teaches Chemistry at Brookfield Academy in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Tell us about yourself.

During these past few years, for obvious reasons (the pandemic), I've become more reflective about my practice. This has reminded me of how much of an influence the Titans of chemistry (Julieann Villa, Mike Heinz, Lee Marek, Jeff Hepburn, Karl Craddock and Bob Becker) have had on me and my students throughout the years. No matter if it's a teaching strategy, a demo or a lab, something always brings me back to their genius. I am grateful for their friendship and their guidance. Besides reflecting, I enjoy juggling, hiking, riding bicycles, and studying yoga.

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

Initially, I had no plans on becoming a chemistry teacher. My main career goal was to become an entomologist. In 2004, I attended a workshop held by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on how to engage students in the chemistry classroom. Little did I know that this workshop was being taught by Jeff Hepburn, chemistry teacher extraordinaire. To say the least, the workshop was magical. I was hooked! After the workshop, I stuck around to talk with Jeff about demonstrations and labs. His passion and kindness came through, while he answered all of my questions; he also provided me with a list of chemistry teachers I should contact and conferences I should attend. I still have my US 13 cent chemistry postal stamp from that day! This meeting launched me into the world of chemical education. 

What fuels your passion for science and teaching?

My passion for science and teaching is fueled by the opportunities I have, as a teacher, to be creative during classroom lessons and laboratory investigations. I am also motivated by the challenge to make such a cerebral subject accessible to my students. I am inspired by artists, performers, scientists, and teaching colleagues.

What do you do to remain current and bring the latest science into the classroom?

I remain current with chemical education by reading publications by the ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry and by attending conferences such as ChemEd X and the Biennial Conference of Chemical Education (BCCE). Most importantly I continue to collaborate closely with my teaching colleagues and attend Illinois ChemWest monthly chemistry meetings.

What are you most proud of in your work?

So far in my career, I am most proud of my students in Chicago with whom I worked closely in the school's ChemClub. Yearly, our ChemClub reached out to underserved middle schools in CPS where hands-on laboratory experiences were not commonplace because of a lack of resources. With the help of ACS grants and the support of our high school, Lane Tech College Prep, we were able to donate lab materials, volunteer our time to assist middle school teachers to develop and run safe and grade-appropriate chemistry labs. I am proud to say that our work is still having an impact on students across Chicago.