Career Story: High School Chemistry And Physics Teacher

High School Chemistry And Physics Teacher

Job Title: Science Teacher

Type of Company: I work in a small urban public high school.

Education: BS, Chemistry, Union College •• MS, Chemistry, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute •• MAT, Secondary Science Education, Union Graduate College

Previous Experience: After graduating from college, I worked as a research chemist for twenty years, earning an MS in chemistry at the same time. I earned an MA in teaching secondary science and have worked for seven years as a high school science teacher.

Job Tasks: I teach chemistry and physics courses in a small public high school. My district is identified as a Title One school, indicating that more than 60% of the school-age population lives below the poverty level. We also have a higher than average percentage of students receiving special education services. I teach Regents and non-Regents chemistry and a non-Regents physics course. In addition to teaching I am expected to help monitor students in the hall before school, and supervise a study hall period.

My profession requires me to plan units and individual lessons for the students, and maintain a chemical stockroom and laboratory, including ordering of supplies. I use computer software to record attendance and grades and to write exams and lesson presentations. Presentation skills, the ability to engage a diverse group of students and provide differentiated instruction are both important skills. I have to be able to communicate effectively with principals, the guidance department, coaches and other teachers as well as the students and their parents. I also participate in professional development activities and I belong to a professional learning community studying literacy strategies. In addition, I serve on several school committees: the parent partnership committee, the professional development committee, and a curriculum mapping school improvement team.

I love my field and love getting students involved in science. I also tutor students individually through the college level chemistry. I am particularly interested in energy issues, and also work as an Energy Educator for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. In this role I conduct seminars for teachers to train them to provide energy education to their students. The job is rewarding and has family-friendly hours, but there is often homework! Planning lessons and correcting papers consumes many school evenings! On the other hand, there are Christmas, February, spring and summer vacations and snow days!

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Best: I love teaching chemistry and helping students get a glimpse of its logic and beauty. A particularly enthusiastic student or an unexpected success for a weaker student can make my day.

I don't enjoy the paperwork very much and I really don't enjoy working with students with persistent discipline and attendance problems.

Job Tips: You must recognize that in addition to knowing your subject, you will have to learn how to teach and how to manage a classroom. You must expect to continue learning your craft and new technology throughout your career. You must genuinely enjoy working with young people. You will need patience and organizational skills and the ability to work with others in a diverse environment. You need to recognize the public nature of your profession and maintain a positive character. Teaching certification requires a thorough background check, including fingerprints, and training in a variety of mandated programs.

Additional Thoughts: For years I had planned to go into teaching science after a reasonable research career. I think having worked in the field is a great asset in teaching, whether teaching art, music or science. Teaching is not a path to riches, but it can be a path to a very enriching life.

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