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For as long as I can remember I have loved science. Maybe it’s because chemistry is in my blood. My paternal grandmother and grandfather were both chemists: he by trade and she by degree and employment. My grandmother was one of the first women to graduate with a chemistry degree from the University of Michigan. My grandparents met at work and had three sons, all of whom became engineers. Obviously, one was my dad.

I have no specific memory of what triggered me to love science, but the first chemistry experiment I remember doing was in third grade. We were classifying rocks and poured Coca-Cola over each rock to see if a reaction took place. I remember pouring the beverage onto my first rock sample and watched as it bubbled, which indicated it was made of limestone. I was thrilled!

My high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Johannessen (Mrs. Jo for short), ignited my interest in chemistry, specifically. She was very positive and patient, and she was an incredible teacher. I took two years of chemistry with her and was her lab assistant my senior year. She attended my wedding, held our firstborn son in her arms, and was my friend for 38 years. She passed away in January 2014, but I was lucky enough to visit with her in November 2013 and told her how much she meant to me and how much she changed my life. Mrs. Jo always was, and always will be, an inspiration to me.

Fourteen years after my third-grade discovery, I graduated from college with a B.S. in chemistry, ready to do great and wonderful things. I was married to my knight in shining armor, and I began what would be a 20-year tenure as a research and industrial chemist in the oil and paper chemicals industries.

When conducting oil and gas research, I operated various instrumentation, including gas and liquid chromatographs, FTIRs, laser light scattering systems, and electrochemical testing equipment. During my paper chemistry career, I worked with British handsheet molds and charge analyzers, among other equipment. I developed a large number of test methods and safety programs, presented two papers, and worked on paper machines around North America. I traveled around the world, ran an international research project, received two safety awards, supervised the build out of two different sets of laboratory buildings, managed 10 laboratories, and applied for a patent (the one thing that I wanted most and never got). Oh, and along the way, I had two sons.

In 2004, the company I was working for shut down. I had been laid off two other times in my career and this final job loss was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I became a stay-at-home mother with two boys, and my oldest was starting high school at George Walton Comprehensive High School. My husband and I have never mandated that our boys participate in any activity except for one—marching band. Both of us had been in band, marched all four years of high school, and agree it was one of the best things we ever did. I immersed myself in the band boosters and became a full-time band and PTSA volunteer at Walton. I also began substitute teaching in the fall of 2004, mostly at Walton.

In 2004, the company I was working for shut down. I had been laid off two other times in my career and this final job loss was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I became a stay-at-home mother with two boys, and my oldest was starting high school at George Walton Comprehensive High School. My husband and I have never mandated that our boys participate in any activity except for one—marching band. Both of us had been in band, marched all four years of high school, and agree it was one of the best things we ever did. I immersed myself in the band boosters and became a full-time band and PTSA volunteer at Walton. I also began substitute teaching in the fall of 2004, mostly at Walton.

By spring of 2007, I decided to become certified to teach high school chemistry because many of the teachers at Walton had told me I was a good teacher. About four weeks after taking the necessary tests, the Walton science department chair offered me a part-time chemistry teaching position. This was a strange coincidence, and I wondered if someone above was trying to tell me something. After receiving nonrenewable certification, I began teaching three sections of chemistry. I did not have any classroom management experience, and the employee structure was different than what I was used to in industry. For the first three years, I reported to the science department chair and not the administrator who evaluated me. I did not really enjoy teaching—I missed working in the lab and having adult conversation throughout the day.

While I missed the lab, I knew I needed to find a career that was recession-proof. I decided to get an M.A.T. in chemistry from Kennesaw State University (KSU) so I could acquire a renewable teaching certificate. I wasn’t sure if I was happy teaching, but at the time I saw no other option. I earned my degree, which allowed me to teach full time at Walton. In December 2010, I walked across the stage at KSU with my parents and family in the audience and my degree in hand.

I’m still at Walton, teaching five sections of chemistry, mostly at the honors level. My goal every day is to ignite a student’s love for science, especially chemistry. I want to help students learn and really understand the material. Chemistry is not a subject that is quickly understood, and when I see discouragement on a student’s face, it tears me apart. I try each and every day to give positive feedback and encourage my students. I know how much that positive feedback can mean—Mrs. Jo was my role model for that.

My first love will always be working in the lab, developing test methods and solving problems. I miss it. But when I look into the eyes of my students and see their excitement, their love of science, I stop and think, “Maybe this is what I am supposed to do.”