Barbara Sitzman remembers the isolation she felt when she started teaching high school chemistry more than 35 years ago.
“I began in a very small district, and I was the only person who spoke chemistry,” says Sitzman, who currently teaches chemistry at Calabasas High School, in California. “I was always looking around for people to talk to and for connections to make, and you kind of had to do it on your own.”
Sitzman pined for a community of chemistry teachers to which she could belong.
She has now found that community in the newly formed American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT), launched this week by the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN.
AACT is the first national membership organization for K–12 teachers of chemistry (see page 63). Mary Kirchhoff, director of the ACS Division of Education, notes there are an estimated 30,000–40,000 teachers of chemistry in the U.S. “It’s our obligation as ACS to support them by providing high-quality resources they can rely on and connecting them with the expertise of the society as a whole,” she says.
Until now, organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have been serving as a resource and community for chemistry teachers, but many chemistry teachers wanted an association tailored specifically to their needs—something AACT provides.
Members of AACT have access to numerous chemistry teaching resources, including lesson plans; video demonstrations; animations and simulations; a subscription to ChemMatters magazine; blogs on teaching; and a subscription to Chemistry Solutions, a peer-reviewed online journal focused on teaching in the K–12 classroom, which is launching with AACT. Teachers are invited to contribute articles to the journal.
They also have opportunities to network with other teachers and share ideas that work. And by participating in AACT-sponsored webinars, teachers can earn continuing education units, which they need to maintain their certification.
“I’m really excited about the launch of AACT,” says Shelly Belleau, who has taught high school chemistry and physics in the Denver area and is now on a temporary teaching assignment at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
She says she typically turns to the Internet to find resources for her classroom but concedes that’s been a piecemeal approach. Instead, “teachers need to be able to go to one place to find resources.” In going to AACT for those resources, she says, she has confidence that the materials she gets are vetted by ACS.
Kirchhoff says one aspiration of AACT is to host a chemistry teachers’ conference where teachers can network and present their work.
The association also plans to partner on activities with other science teacher organizations, including NSTA, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the National Association of Biology Teachers.
Annual membership in AACT costs $50. Students studying to become chemistry teachers pay $25 per year. Members of AACT interested in also being a member of ACS must join ACS separately.
Kirchhoff says roughly 1,800 chemistry teachers are currently members of ACS, but she notes that the vast majority of K–12 teachers of chemistry are not engaged with the society. By joining AACT, you are “getting a package of resources that are specifically tailored to you,” Kirchhoff says.
Regis Goode, a chemistry teacher at Ridge View High School, in Columbia, S.C., and an advisory board member of AACT, says the formation of AACT sends a positive signal to chemistry teachers. “It’s sending a message that ACS wants them to be a part of the community,” she says.
“I think a lot of teachers are intimidated about joining ACS,” Goode continues. “This will give teachers a less intimidating place to post things, publish some of their ideas, and share some of their resources.”
Jessica Levine, a teacher at Nathan Eckstein Middle School, in Seattle, says her membership in AACT will give her students exposure to ACS. “By letting my students know that I’m a member of this organization, I’ll be familiarizing them with the resources the society has to offer for the chemistry community,” she says.
And ACS is betting that exposing students to chemistry through AACT will result in an even brighter future for the field. “So many chemists say they went into chemistry because they were inspired by their high school chemistry teacher,” Kirchhoff says. “Without good chemistry teachers in the classroom, students are going to turn off to chemistry.”
To learn more about AACT, and to become a member, visit teachchemistry.org.