AACT Member Spotlight: Sherri Rukes

By AACT on December 3, 2018

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 AACT President and AP chemistry teacher at Libertyville High School, Sherri Rukes.

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

During my childhood, I remember playing teacher with my stuffed animals and dolls. I would line them up and use a chalkboard on wheels to teach them. In middle school, I figured out science will be the topic, however, it wasn't until high school that I realized it would be chemistry. My chemistry teacher did not only make me excel, but he made me want to go to class, get more instruction outside of class and learn about things other than what was covered in class. He cared about student’s insecurities and got to know his students. He took interest in the students, did not mind telling students that he did not know an answer and made learning interesting. I was not afraid to be wrong in and actively question things that I learned. These memories made me realize that I wanted to become like him when I grew up.

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

How to think for themselves, think outside of the box and never give up

Words of wisdom: Never give up, look outside the box and always do what you enjoy and love! That is what makes every day at work interesting to me. Every day is a new experience.

What fuels your passion for science and teaching?

People say I’m passionate and great at what I do, but I think there is always room to improve. I guess that is why I do not do the same thing every year. I think the most rewarding part of being a teacher is sparking the interest of the students. Seeing them have that "ah-ha!" moment. That is why I do all the outreach and teach chemistry. I want them to start enjoying it and learn from it. Seeing students work together and learn a tough abstract subject such as chemistry. The students by far are the most rewarding part of the job. The interaction with them. Seeing them succeed and grow is amazing. I am so proud of all my students. As a teacher, you hope that you inspire at least one student and it brings me to tears to think of the students that I have touched and did not know it, I am like a “proud parent.” They are all my kids and I hope for the best for them. Former students told me that the students call my class “a family.” They did not understand until they took my class. I care so much for them and I look forward to teaching them.

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

Too many to talk about, but Halloween would be the day I do it. I put on a Halloween show for my students. They have to write down the concept of chemistry that I am portraying but it is 40 plus demos that are Halloween related. It is a lot of work, but the faces of my students sum it all up.

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

I love to spend my time helping others with the subject of chemistry, participating in outreach efforts, speaking at conferences, etc. I love inspiring others to enjoy chemistry and science – at least have an appreciation for it. The outreach, workshops, etc., makes me feel energized and I learn so much from the participants as much as enjoying teaching others. I always loved being a part of a group and AACT allowed me to feel like I am part of a family - a chemistry family. It is a place for me to meet tons of people who love chemistry as much as I do and want to learn more. It is great to feel like I am a part of something bigger and greater than just me.