Why You Should Attend an ACS National Meeting

By Sherri Rukes on February 21, 2017

Oh man. Where do I begin? For most of you it might seem overwhelming to go to a conference, but going to the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting is worth it. I know there is one big looming question that most teachers have about whether or not they should attend the national meeting: Is it a conference for professional chemists, and will everything go over my head? Wrong! There is so much to see and do at a meeting that the discounted registration for teachers is worth it. Having a real, in-person conversation with another teacher or hearing about what is is happening in the world of chemical education is the inspiration for innovation in your classroom. When you attend a meeting the opportunities are endless; sitting down and chatting with liked - minded people is so invaluable. Here are the reasons why you should attend…

  1. Inspiration. Being around other chemists and educators is so inspiring. Everyone in the room “gets it” and we feed off each other's energy, which is motivating and encouraging. That inspiration often provides direction and next steps for the classroom.
  2. The exposition. Acs sd expoLet me be honest, the expo hall is overwhelming. Even though you will never have some (ok - most) of that equipment in a high school science lab, it is amazing to see the advancements in equipment, talk to companies and see what they are working on, or just be able to look at all the various chemistry related books. Oh, I forgot the most important part: the swag you can bring home to your classroom. (Image at right: Glimpse into the Expo hall at the San Diego Meeting in March 2016. Credit: @ACSGCI, https://twitter.com/)
  3. Opportunity. People like to collaborate with those they like and trust. People admire and share more with those they’ve met in person. This happens every year at Teachers’ Day on Sunday. Sunday there is a whole day of programming of presentations about assessments, teaching, research, etc. There is also a bunch of hands on activities on that day. Most importantly, you’ll be able to talk to others at your table.
  4. Connections. Reception denverFace-to-face connections open the door for you to talk to people you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily talk to or find. Go and explore and listen to the history talks on chemistry or listen to some food chemists talks. All of these are so wonderful and you will bring back snippets to use in your classroom. (Image at right: Teachers Day reception at the National Meeting in Denver, March 2015. Credit: @ACSChemClubs https://twitter.com/)
  5. Growth. Listening to the latest research or a method of teaching will help you grow and become a better teacher. Making those connections in your classroom will help students understand the importance of the subject as well as maybe pursuing it one day.
  6. Meeting famous people. There are Nobel Prize-winning chemists who attend the meetings. You have the chance to meet them and so many other chemists that have shaped our world today.
  7. Confidence. Pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, listening to topics you are not 100% about, will make you grow and learn how to facilitate future conversations with lasting connections.
  8. Teacher Symposiums. The meeting has even more talks designed for the K–12 teacher, and opportunities for teachers to share their ideas serve as a sounding board for other ideas. The Sunday program carries over into Monday with a workshop on Polymer Science.
  9. The Luncheon. This is the only conference that I have been to (I have been to many) that teachers are truly treated special. On Sunday, there is a lunch catered for us. It is not just a sandwich. It is always a nice lunch.
  10. The SWAG!! You will come home with so much. There are door prizes, give away, the ideas, handouts, etc.
  11. Friendships. I look forward to the new friends I will meet at the meeting as well as seeing many of the friends that I have met at other conferences. I just feel at HOME when I go to an ACS National Meeting. Nothing secures a friendship more than time spent in each others presence. You will make friendships that last throughout the entire school year and beyond.
To those of you who’ve really got it in the pocket and think that a conference is not for you because you are “only” a K –12 teacher, please consider giving it a try. The conference provides a huge discount for teachers to attend. (Some attendees will pay as much as $935 to attend the San Francisco National Meeting; K–12 educators only pay $110!) And the symposiums designed for teachers are designed for all K–12 chemistry teachers — not just AP teachers. Besides, it might just inspire you to share something wonderful you do in your classroom at another conference. Everyone has something unique to contribute, whether it is a different way of doing a lab or teaching method, a helpful website used, etc. Consider coming and sharing. Conferences are designed to make you think, to spark inspiration. They are where the next big thing truly lies.

Ms. Sherri Conn Rukes is an AP Chemistry at Libertyville High School in Libertyville, IL, and 2016-2017 High School Ambassador for AACT. She earned a B.S. in Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics from the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana and an M.S. in Education from NOVA Southeastern University in Florida. Sherri has done research at Northwestern University in Material Science (from MWNT to art restoration), is a Polymer Ambassador, is a master teacher for ASM and has presented at several NSTA, ACS, and ISTA conferences. You can follow her on Twitter @polychemgirl or @sherrirukes.

Editor's note

The upcoming ACS National Meeting will be held in San Francisco, April 2-6, 2017. To learn more about teacher programming, and how to register, please visit the ACS website. All K–12 teachers are eligible to receive the discounted registration rate of $110. Please select the "Pre-College Teacher" option during registration.