Many years ago, Evans High School chemistry teacher Jill Harrell found herself running from one group of students to another to answer their questions during labs. She soon found a way to ensure that they were better prepared and has stuck with her plan ever since.
"If they ask a question that is written in the lab or information that I have gone over, they can lose 10 points on the lab," said Harrell, who teaches chemistry and forensics.
Her ingenuity has been recognized by members of the Savannah River Section of the American Chemical Society, who recently awarded Harrell with the Denise L. Creech Outstanding High School Chemistry Teacher Award.
The annual award is presented by the local section of the society to the teacher who has made the most significant contributions to the advancement of chemistry education.
The winner is chosen through a review of nominations and classroom visits to observe the finalists in a teaching environment.
The recipient receives a plaque and $500, and the winning teacher's high school receives $100 for its science department.
Mike Bronikowski, the past chairman of the Savannah River Section and the principal scientist at Savannah River National Laboratory, said this 10-point rule was just one of the ways that Harrell's nomination stood out.
He also said that she "gives students time to work on a problem instead of being right on top of them," and that she ties in local chemistry news about SRS or Plant Vogtle with her lessons.
"Instead of just teaching from the book that she has, she has actually brought the forensics into the school," he said.
Harrell said she tries to make her classes interesting by keeping her students engaged.
"To me, you have to relate it to the real world ... to something the kids understand, because it's very abstract to them," she said.
For instance, she said, chefs use chemistry concepts when they measure ingredients, and hairdressers have to mix chemicals in their jobs.
Harrell said chemistry is hard for some students because they have to apply concepts rather than memorize facts.
"If they don't go away with any knowledge of chemistry, I hope they will go away with an appreciation of chemistry and learn how to think and apply in certain situations," she said.
Harrell also has been nominated by the Savannah River Section for the American Chemical Society, Division of Chemical Education, Southeastern Regional Award for Excellence in High School Teaching.
Bronikowski said it is important to recognize local chemistry teachers for their work.
"They're encouraging the next generation of chemists," he said.
Creech Award nominations, which are due by Feb. 15, are being accepted for the 2008-09 year.
For more information, go to at www.acs-sr.org.
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