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James Bryant Conant Award In High School Chemistry Teaching

by Emily Bones
January 13, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 2

Credit: Gerry Meloche
Photo of Kathleen A. Kitzmann, chemistry teacher at Mercy High School, in Farmington Hills, Mich.
Credit: Gerry Meloche

Sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific

Kathleen A. Kitzmann has demonstrated “creativity, enthusiasm, and love of chemistry for 40 years and counting,” remarks Lisa Schrimscher, who teaches chemistry with Kitzmann at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, Mich. “She not only inspires her students but also her colleagues,” Schrimscher says.

Kitzmann, 63, has led workshops and symposia for science educators since 1989. “Become actively involved with other chemistry colleagues,” Kitzmann advises. “You will never regret it.”

As a result of Kitzmann’s leadership in workshops at conferences, Flinn Scientific, a safety and chemical equipment supplier for classrooms, offers through its catalog three experiments that Kitzmann inspired. “Lisa Schrimscher and I have shared these lab station experiments at many conferences,” Kitzmann says.

Colleagues say that her involvement with chemistry education outside the classroom makes Kitzmann a better teacher, which directly affects her students’ motivation and success. “Her extensive knowledge in chemistry creates an environment that excites students to take AP Chemistry,” Schrimscher explains. “No matter how the lesson is being delivered,” she says, “students know they will be challenged to take the material they are taught and apply it to labs and problem sets.”

“My style of teaching now is much different from when I first started,” Kitzmann says. “I think my colleagues see that I am not stagnant. I love sharing with other teachers, and I love learning from them as well.” She has attended every ChemEd Conference since 1989 and every Intel Biennial Conference on Chemical Education since 1996. Kitzmann has also presented at some of these conferences.

“When I was asked to teach chemistry many years into my career, she was my lifesaver,” says Colleen M. Rozman, a fellow chemistry teacher and the assistant principal at Mercy. “I work with the ‘guru of chemistry’ in the Detroit area.”

Since 1984, Kitzmann has been actively involved with the Science & Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit. Because of this involvement, either as a sponsoring teacher or a judge, she has traveled throughout the U.S. and to Canada and Puerto Rico for the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair. She is also the moderator of the science club at Mercy, the most popular of the school’s clubs.

Kitzmann credits Stanley L. Burden, her freshman-year chemistry professor at Taylor University, in Indiana, with her passion for chemistry. She earned a B.S. in chemistry education in 1972 from Taylor and an M.S. in medicinal chemistry from the University of Michigan in 1974. She then began teaching high school at Mercy (then Our Lady of Mercy High School).

Four years later, Kitzmann was asked to teach freshman inorganic chemistry for two years at Taylor. She gladly accepted the new opportunity. She enjoyed her experience but decided to resume teaching high school in 1980 at Detroit Catholic Central High School, where she was also the science department chair. In 1995, she returned to Mercy as a chemistry teacher and science department chair.

To sum it up, Schrimscher says, “Kathy Kitzmann defines what a chemistry teacher should be.”

Kitzmann will present her award address before the Division of Chemical Education.


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