AACT Member Spotlight: Sean Fisk
By AACT on April 30, 2020
Every month AACT will spotlight a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month we spotlight Sean Fisk. He teaches chemistry and AP Chemistry at Ruamrudee International School in Bangkok, Thailand.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in upstate New York, but attended college in St. Petersburg, Florida on the Gulf Coast. I worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for nearly a decade as a Principal Investigator and Field Biologist before getting married and moving across the state. Its then that I started teaching. My wife, whom I met while working at FWC, is also a science teacher and I learned most of what I know from her. Aside from teaching and researching, I also captained a search and rescue vessel in Tampa Bay and was a boat mechanic for a short while. A few years after having my first daughter, my wife and I left the United Sates to teach abroad. We landed in Jeju, South Korea for a few years at a great international school where I learned something new about teaching every single day. Currently I teach in Bangkok, Thailand with my wife and two precocious little girls.
Why did you become a teacher? Did you always want to teach?
As a field researcher, I saw the ins and outs of the practice of science. I was intimately familiar with how physical and biological science worked together and I was very involved in designing creative ways to carry out my research. I had always wanted to teach because I genuinely enjoyed my schooling, both secondary and university. I really wanted to bring that love for learning to others, and I got my opportunity when my wife and I moved from Tampa Bay to Melbourne, FL shortly after getting married. I was able to enter the counties certification program, first with a biology certification but quickly followed by one in chemistry. I got my start as a long term substitute in a middle school. The next year, I was a full time teacher of general science classes in high school. It was difficult, but it was rewarding and I have never looked back.
What fuels your passion for science and teaching?
I have always loved science. As a scientist first and a teacher second, I do everything I can to maintain the sense of wonder that kids have about science. They have questions, they are curious, and they want to know. They have been conditioned to think that science is hard and something they can't do. I strive every day to show them that it is just logic and a process of deductive reasoning. There's nothing they can't do.
What are you most proud of in your work?
I am most proud of my work in bringing the Next Generation Science Standards to the teachers of my past two schools. In South. Korea, I taught with a highly professional group of dynamic, daring, and collaborative teachers. We had decided when AERO dropped their own standards in favor of NGSS, we would do the same. I didn't know anything about them, but I made it my mission to learn and to share and support my department as their department head. Department meetings became less about the mundane and more about learning, experimenting, and debriefing these new standards. We would sit and literally talk for hours about a single standard, how we used to teach it, and how we would teach it now. We deconstructed the Science Practices and the Concepts, and co-planned lesson cycles together. The department even made time to observe each other and then have honest debriefs about the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson, finishing with specifically how they would change it for next time. It was such a a positive and growth focused environment to teach and learn in, and I am proud that I had a role to play in forming it.
If you could pass on one word of wisdom to other chemists what would it be?Become an expert in something. Education is a constantly changing landscape of social science. There are so many different competing and often contradictory schools of thought on best practice. Though I've never been much of a social scientist, I do trust peer-reviewed science. Do your homework. Read the primary sources. Become fluent in one or two of your favorites that are well supported, and be the best you can be. Most of them work; it just depends on your style and student population and the amount of effort you are willing to invest. If you become really good at that one thing, you will see results in your kids learning and they will be better for it.