September 2023 | Editorial
Connect, Collaborate, and Contribute
By Michael Farabaugh
I always anticipate the energy that accompanies the beginning of a new school year. For starters, it gives me a chance to get to know new students and reconnect with former students. It also allows me to combine my “tried and true” instructional methods with some new strategies that I hope will be successful. At the same time, the start of a new school year helps me to strive for a healthy balance between my work and personal life.
Another reason for me to be excited about the 2023-24 school year is that I have the honor of serving as your Governing Board President. In that capacity, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all the teachers who have recently joined AACT. And to the many teachers who have been with us for a year or more, a hearty thank you — and welcome back!
If you have not yet become a member, I encourage you to learn more about AACT member benefits. And if you’re still on the fence, I invite you to attend the AACT Open House webinar in a couple of weeks, on September 13!
This school year marks my 26th as a high school chemistry teacher. In my opinion, a positive classroom environment involves a continuous process of giving and receiving between teachers and students. This is why I always try to demonstrate my passion for chemistry when I teach, and also why I enjoy observing my students’ enthusiasm during an engaging lesson. I try not only to foster my students’ curiosity, but also to show them how much I love to learn new things. When I give an assessment, I want the results to inform my instruction, and also to give my students feedback on their progress.
I joined AACT as a charter member in 2014, and I appreciate the fact that this community has been established by teachers and for teachers. It is my hope that you will think of AACT as a forum for continuous giving and receiving, and a place where you can help to make AACT even more valuable for yourself and fellow teachers. I invite all of us to share, learn, and grow as we embrace what I call the “three Cs.”
I encourage you to connect with other teachers from your school, your school district, or through your social networks. Share the story of your journey through chemistry education, and make it both personal and relevant. Here’s what Lisa Ammirati has to say about her experience writing an article for Chemistry Solutions.
"For me, the barrier to engagement was fear that I hadn’t worked out every possible detail or that my topic wasn't novel or interesting enough. However, the editors at AACT were fantastic to work with and the peer review process helped me feel confident that the article was ready for publication. I found the process to be really simple, so I'm eager to submit again in the future. As someone who frequently uses resources published by AACT, it also felt good to contribute to the community in a meaningful way. Each of us does so many interesting things in our classrooms, big and small, and some of the most helpful resources I’ve found in my career have been those shared by fellow teachers."
-- Lisa Ammirati, Abington Friends School, PA
If you appreciate the benefits of being an AACT member, don’t keep it to yourself! You may already be familiar with the AACT classroom resource library, which offers teaching resources for AP Chemistry and high school chemistry. But you might not realize that we also have resources for middle school and elementary school teachers as well! Connect with a science teacher from an elementary or middle school in your area, and spread the word about the value of becoming an AACT member.
Teaching is a challenging endeavor that can seem even more overwhelming when a teacher feels alone or isolated. If you happen to be the only educator who teaches chemistry-related content at your school, I encourage you to make a plan this year to collaborate with other AACT members.
Perhaps you’ve found a favorite article, lesson plan, or webinar from AACT that impacted your teaching practices. I encourage you to consider partnering with another teacher (or a group of teachers) to brainstorm ideas for creating engaging lessons.
Teacher collaboration is such a powerful form of professional development. Keep your eyes open for an AACT Office-Hours event this year, where you can connect with other teachers in a virtual setting. Not sure where to start? Connect with me on Twitter or YouTube!
Here’s how Tom Kuntzleman (aka Tommy Technetium on YouTube) describes his experience working with the Science Coaches program, in which a K–12 teacher is paired with a chemistry professional to foster student interest in chemistry.
"I love engaging with students and teachers through the AACT Science Coaches program. I usually get involved by running a few classroom demonstrations for students (and I rarely turn down an opportunity to perform science demonstrations for students of any age). My interactions with collaborating teachers are almost always mutually beneficial, as we discuss various aspects of approaching both the content and pedagogy of chemical education."
-- Tom Kuntzleman, Wayne State University, MI
There are many ways that you can contribute to AACT. For example, in this issue of Chemistry Solutions, you’ll find exciting stories and insight from several teachers, much like you, who each put an idea into action by sharing with the chemistry education community.
- Learn how two co-teachers plan to explore, integrate, and enhance the learning experience with ChatGPT in their science classroom this year.
- Read what a retired teacher shared about her experience designing chemistry lessons aimed to engage low performing students by connecting content with relevant life experiences.
- Get insights from a former teacher who reflects on past challenges and how she now uses that perspective in her work as a science video content creator.
- Be inspired by a teacher who serves as a mentor of preservice teachers and the valuable impact the experience has on their personal and professional growth.
- Last but not least, read about a teacher’s experience creating a STEM mentorship program to address the sizable gap in performance between White and Hispanic students in science.
Some of you might be tempted to see yourself as ordinary teachers, who don’t have anything particularly special to share. I’ve certainly felt that way on occasion … and like many teachers, I’ve struggled at times with “imposter syndrome.” One way to combat such feelings is to establish a network of colleagues where individuals can ask for guidance and share advice.
Our membership represents a diverse range of teachers with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. We are certainly #BetterTogether, and I’m here to encourage you to feel more comfortable as a contributor. The talented AACT staff is ready to help you transform your idea into a beneficial resource. Here’s what Karen Sorensen recently shared about her experience hosting a webinar for AACT.
"I had watched several AACT webinars, but was never really sure if what I had to say would be interesting enough for others. I shared my idea and was given such great support by Jeramy (DeBry) to present. Prior to presenting, any stress I felt was calmed by the AACT staff as they worked with me through all of my questions and concerns. The presentation time went very well and I felt very at ease. The follow-up comments that were shared with me were very supportive and helpful, and made me feel comfortable enough to want to share again. This AACT community is so helpful and has helped me feel comfortable to share my ideas with others and to collaborate on improving my class experiments/assignments."
-- Karen Sorensen, Indianola High School, IA
When we connect, collaborate, and contribute, we can engage in that healthy process of both giving and receiving. I hope that each of you has a successful school year in which your students develop a better appreciation for and a deeper understanding of chemistry!
Board President, AACT