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The truth will always set you free!

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

Why I became a teacher...AKA the shortened version of my eulogy to my teaching career!

I loved teaching so much at the beginning of my teaching journey - I knew it was what I was meant to do. I was inspired by students and connected with them. I felt more alive when I was teaching then I ever did being a student. Going back to school to get my masters in teaching was amazing. I loved learning this time, I found pedagogy to be interesting and engaging.

It's funny for me to think about that first week of teaching. I would put on a fantastic show for the class, but as soon as I was alone I would break into sobs feeling like such a failure. Who am I to be doing this? That week was hard. I also remember staying up late and planning what I was going to do the next day, as I had not been in a classroom before. At this point in my journey, I had very little support from others on what I needed to do, and I wanted to be the best. My second educational experience, I found a community. It was a community that cared for each other and supported the growth of each other. I think I took it for granted, just how connected I felt to this community.

Why chemistry? In short, it was because of two teachers who made chemistry fun for me. I think most of my students would say I did help them see chemistry as an enjoyable class. This was one of my greatest accomplishments - knowing that students left chemistry without the dread and fear that so many can. Why AP Chemistry? I was always sad that students I loved and students who loved chemistry didn’t have an opportunity to take another class with me (maybe this was selfish). I was nervous because I didn’t think I had the ability to teach such an advanced class. I still don’t know if I do, but I taught it for a few years, and the best part of teaching that class is that I sometimes had two years spent with kids who love chemistry.

For me, collaboration is when I am at my best. Another teacher asked me to join them in planning a program with students. Students would choreograph and teach teachers how to dance, we would model it after the show Dancing With The Stars. I didn’t know what I was doing, but this event raised $5,000 and it was a packed house. A freshman taught me and my partner how to perform and - we did - in front of a huge crowd. I was vulnerable and the student was also vulnerable. I learned so much from this student, and this was one of the first times I realized that the classroom was all wrong. Teachers didn’t teach students, we all needed to learn together, but that wasn’t how education works. For me, I had a taste of what education could be, and I didn’t want to teach in a classroom that didn’t have that experience.

Teaching meant an opportunity to share and discover who I am. I found extreme value knowing that students wanted to be in my classroom and wanted to be part of something that I really loved, whether they loved it or not. I knew they loved the feeling they had when they were in the classroom with me. Something that I recently realized is that it was important for me to form relationships in the classroom with students, but the memories and accomplishments outside of the classroom with these same students were far more valuable to me.

Looking into my students' faces, watching their light bulbs go on, connecting chemistry to their lives, and knowing a sample of those students went off to study chemistry - in part because of the relationship they had with me. Those memories will stay even as I say goodbye to teaching chemistry in a classroom. I know there are students who have confidence in their learning, and the desire to learn hard things because I found a way to provide them an opportunity to discover their courage in my classroom. When I think about the number of students I have influenced in the last 20 years teaching chemistry it's mind-blowing! 2000 students!

Teaching meant collaborating with some brilliant people and growing into something I never knew I could be. So many of these collaborations, including ones with students, helped me grow into the teacher I am today. Chemistry was the vehicle, but the relationships mean more to me than any concept in chemistry.

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