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James Bryant Conant Award In High School Chemistry Teaching

by Arlene Goldberg-Gist
February 18, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 7

Credit: Courtesy of Stephen Radice
Photo of Stephen Radice, a chemistry teacher at Edward R. Murrow High School, in Brooklyn,
Credit: Courtesy of Stephen Radice

Sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific

In the teaching world of award recipient Stephen Radice, chemistry and fun are synonymous, and his students and colleagues alike are the beneficiaries of his unique pedagogy.

A chemistry teacher at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, Radice challenges and inspires his students by taking them to lectures by Nobel Laureates, to Polytechnic Institute of New York University to do lab experiments, and to museums, says former ACS New York Section chair Frank Romano.

Other strategies that Radice, 48, uses to engage his students include incorporation of demonstrations, cartoons, and movie clips in his lessons; lesson-appropriate attire, such as periodic table shirts and ties, Mole Day shirts, and chemical-bonding shirts; chemistry celebrations including “Molebration Day”; group work; and a webpage for student outreach.

“Over 80% of his students consistently score a three or above on the AP chemistry exam, for which they receive college credit,” Romano says.

One of Radice’s former students, who is now a pediatric endocrinologist, writes of him poetically: “Knowledge. That is a concept most associated with an ideal of a teacher—the ability to pass on the knowledge to a student, to fully unwind his potential, and to show him how to apply that knowledge. My ‘ideal,’ favorite high school teacher, Mr. Stephen Radice, accomplished all that in an exciting and wonderfully personal way, a way that reasserted my confidence in my capabilities. … He always seemed to want to get past explaining the rules and terminology, and get to the interesting part—drawing and building molecules. ‘Let’s knock these out,’ he always said, and the chalk melted in his hands.”

Over his nearly 28-year career, Radice has taught a broad range of courses including AP chemistry, regents chemistry lab, special education labs focusing on topics such as earth science and the living environment, chemistry lab for hearing-impaired students, as well as astronomy and physics. He also serves as coordinator of the entire science department, where he assists with lessons, curricula, lab schedules, planning tutoring sessions for students, and community member outreach.

Radice is no stranger to high achievement. His past honors include the New York Times Teacher Who Makes a Difference Award and the University of Chicago Outstanding Teacher Award (both in 2005) and the Nichols Foundation High School Chemistry Teacher Award (2007).

Speaking of his own influences, Radice lists his parents. In addition, he says, “My high school chemistry teacher, Ivan Doctor, truly inspired me. … I can still see him teaching me a lesson on reaction rates and using trucks going uphill as the ‘rate-determining step.’ I still use that today in my classes.” Although those people influenced his career choice, he says, “the students have influenced me in my career path. They consistently renew my passion to teach.”

Radice has a B.A. in chemistry from Brooklyn College and a master of science in education from the College of Staten Island.

He will present the award address before the ACS Division of Chemical Education.



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