AACT Member Spotlight: Kristin Gregory
By AACT on December 2, 2020
Every month AACT spotlights a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month we spotlight Kristin Gregory. She teaches chemistry and AP Chemistry at Geauga High School in Chesterland, Ohio.
Tell us about yourself.
I have been a teacher in the West Geauga Local School District for 35 years. I started at the middle school, teaching Introductory Physical Science before moving to the high school to teach Chemistry, Honors Chemistry and AP Chemistry. I love getting outside for a nice long walk at the end of the day, with my trusty Labrador Retriever at my side. I am currently modeling "productive struggle" for my students by learning how to knit and paint, and I am always on the lookout for a good #selfiewithabear opportunity.
Why did you become a teacher? Did you always want to teach?
I was that kid who rushed home from elementary school on the last day of the year and started working on the parts of the workbooks that we didn't finish. (People who know me will not be in the least bit surprised by this.) My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Gale, moved up to become my 6th grade teacher. She would patiently let me stay after to help decorate bulletin boards, etc., and was the first person to inspire me to become a teacher. In junior high and high school, I knew that science was my thing. Although I went to college to major in chemistry, I soon realized that I could have the best of both worlds by teaching a subject that I find fascinating. My parents, a chemical engineer and an actress, were a big influence as well.
What fuels your passion for science and teaching?
Lab work, particularly providing opportunities for students to engage in hands-on experiments. I spent the first ten years of my career teaching the inquiry-based Introductory Physical Science (IPS) course to middle school students. Their excitement about doing chemistry experiments was invigorating and they developed good skills that prepared them for their advanced high school science courses. It was such a treat to move up to high school and have the same students again. I could see how much they had grown as learners. I love problem-solving so trying new lessons keeps things fresh and interesting for me and hopefully for my students.
What topic do you find hardest for students? How do you teach it?
The Mole. I've tried everything: lecture, drill and practice, Mole Day activities, and, of course, Molympics (which was created in collaboration with the fantastic Luann Lee, Doug Ragan, Wendy Czerwinski and Ann Gardner). All of these methods work—and don't—depending upon the student and where they are in their educational journey. The key is patience and a willingness to meet students where they are in their understanding and then give them a push. I think many experienced chemistry teachers would agree that giving students the time and opportunity to make mistakes helps students to deepen their understanding of any concept. By the end of the year, students have much less, if any, difficulty with the mole. When students return to take AP Chemistry, you would never know that they spent the prior October struggling with the concept.
Why did you become involved with AACT? What are the benefits of being involved?
The former physics teacher in my department had been a long-time member of AAPT and raved about the resources that AAPT provided. When AACT was formed, I jumped at the chance to become a charter member and I am glad that I did! AACT webinars are an amazing resource. They allow members to explore content and learn new teaching strategies with the help of expert teachers. Every webinar that I have attended has been top-notch. The presenters generously share their expertise and materials and the topics are timely. Lesson resources posted on the AACT website are also very helpful whether you are looking for a lesson in a pinch or you just want a new strategy to add to your repertoire
If you could pass on one word of wisdom to other chemists what would it be?
Reach out! Attend ChemEd and BCCE conferences! Say hello to someone in a conference session and start sharing your ideas and your teaching struggles. You will be blessed by finding friends and mentors who will enrich your life and help you grow as a teacher. A simple strategy that you use in your classroom may be just the thing that a fellow teacher needs. You will find many passionate chemistry teachers who are willing to work together with you. I have seen time and again how one teacher's idea is built upon by others and in the end students in multiple classrooms in multiple schools across the country and even the globe benefit from it.