Jennifer Pitt-Lainsbury, University of Toronto Schools, Toronto ON is the 2014 winner of the Beaumier Award for High School/CÉGEP Chemistry Teachers.
Chem 13 News asked Jennifer to give her reflections and advice to other chemistry teachers.
In the words of this year’s Canadian Teacher of the Year:
I love science and teaching, and although I enjoy a lot of things, I cannot imagine having a job I enjoy more than teaching chemistry. I think it is fun. Not fun in the frivolous, jump up and down and act silly sense of enjoyment but in the intensely interesting, always primed for a new discovery sense. Discoveries like the ones I witness my students make, like the ones derived from the creative ways to teach a concept and facilitate student learning, and even the discoveries of new ideas about chemistry — yes, new chemistry, even at the high school level.
All dedicated teachers have the privilege of witnessing their students making discoveries. Many students tell me that they find chemistry one of the most challenging high school courses and yet, like me, that is why they love it — it is challenging. I encourage an environment of respectful humour in my classes. We have many laughs as we learn, but students know I will not accept “well-articulated nonsense”. Students must demonstrate their understanding of concepts and arguments with evidence and research.
What have I discovered about teaching and chemistry? This year, I discovered that I could teach equilibrium and address associated misconceptions with nanobugs (the toy). I discovered how to construct inquiry labs for which even the brightest, most resourceful students could not find straightforward answers on-line. I discovered how to use tonic water to illustrate quantum principles. This is a small sample of learning for this year alone. Many of these things are not yet in the literature. Every day I am inspired to discover new things by engaging with students, witnessing the work of my colleagues, and reading articles in Chem 13 News and other chemistry publications.
I endeavour to share everything I learn with my chemistry and science work colleagues, with other chemistry teachers through conference sessions, and with new interns or first-year teachers. In turn, I have always benefited so much from other teachers. As well, I have discovered efficient strategies to organize all of the materials I gather so that I can implement the great new ideas with my own twist.
Anyone who is teaching chemistry should love teaching and love chemistry. To do this you have to love learning and students. I cannot teach from someone else’s notes but I love using innovative ideas that others generously share. As the educational landscape continues to evolve with new technology, do not forget there are new ideas about chemistry. Engage in the technology and the teaching strategies but be careful not to overuse anything. Make sure students get excited about chemistry and build their confidence with the underlying concepts — the focus for chemistry teachers should always be students, chemistry and learning.
Do you know someone in your department who should be recognized? Let’s showcase the work of chemistry teachers! Here are some of the national awards to consider. To find more information, look under the national institute’s website.
Canada (Chemical Institute of Canada)
Beaumier Award for High School/CÉGEP Chemistry Teachers
Nomination deadline: October 15, 2014
USA (American Chemical Society)
James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching
Nomination deadline: November 1, 2014
Sponsor: Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.
UK (The Royal Society of Chemistry)
Schools Education Award
Nomination deadline: January 15, 2015
Australia (Royal Australian Chemical Institute)
Pearson RACI Chemistry Educator of the Year Award
Nomination deadline: June 2015