AACT Member Spotlight: Melanie Wills

By AACT on January 2, 2019

Sherri rukes aact spotlightEvery month AACT will spotlight a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month we spotlight Dr. Melanie Bartow Wills, high school chemistry teacher at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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

I wanted to be a high school chemistry teacher since I took chemistry in 10th grade with a wonderful teacher who brought the subject alive. My love was further deepened by the fantastic organic chemistry teacher in college. I strive to bring as much enthusiasm and care for my students as they gave to me.

What are you most proud of in your work?

The times I am the proudest are when students who initially struggle and doubt their abilities find success in my class. In addition, I take great pride when a student tells me they entered the year unexcited about chemistry, but by the end really enjoyed the class and learned a lot.

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

One topic my regular students struggle with is solving stoichiometry problems. Specifically, some get lost with what information they need to use and what steps they need to perform. I have developed a way to “diagram” the equation so they can stay organized and focused about what information is relevant and the sequence they need follow to solve the problem.

Do you have a science demo that students find particularly compelling? What makes it so interesting for them?

My students love the demonstration when you monitor the interaction of diluted Milk of Magnesia with portions of vinegar using universal indicator. My AP students love the color changes as well as how it synthesizes the dynamic nature of equilibrium, limiting reagents and neutralizations in one demonstration.

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

I found AACT searching on the Internet for a new lab to do with my students. In addition to using the resources, I have participated in two AACT DOW teacher summits. Not only are the resources fantastic but I love all of the talented, wonderful people I have met though the organization.