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James Bryant Conant Award In High School Chemistry Teaching

by Marc S. Reisch
January 26, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 4

Credit: Lifetouch Studios
Photo of Ball.
Credit: Lifetouch Studios

Sponsored by ACS

Jenelle Ball has a proven ability to cultivate high school students’ curiosity about molecular science. She inspires those who have potential to succeed in chemistry and makes sure they are well prepared for college.

As a teacher of chemistry and also the science department chair at Chico High School, a public school in Chico, Calif., she has advocated for a rigorous science program that students clamor to attend. In her classroom, several students will often respond to questions, and Ball is further able to engage students by extending responses with additional questions.

A professor of chemistry at California State University, Chico (CSUC), who has had several of Ball’s students in his college classroom wondered why they did so well. When he went to observe one of Ball’s vibrant classes at Chico High, he found that student engagement and “the level of understanding articulated by the students was truly impressive.”

The CSUC professor added, “If we could count on all of our freshman general chemistry students coming to the university with that level of understanding, we could do much more in our own classes.”

One graduate of Ball’s classes who is now a tenure-track instructor at CSUC says, “I joyfully credit Ball with showing me the beauty of chemistry and its interaction with other disciplines.” Today teaching chemistry to graduates from Ball’s classes, he finds they are “better at studying, better at performing, and better at asking probing questions” than students from other high schools.

Ball, 55, got her B.S. in chemistry from CSUC in 1982. She received her M.S. the following year from the University of ­California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), and an M.A. in education from UC Santa Barbara in 1999.

She taught general, organic, and inorganic laboratory classes at UCSC and CSUC from 1982 to 1985. She went on to teach algebra, physics, and chemistry at Corning Union High School in Corning, Calif., through 1987, when she moved to Chico High.

An advocate of hands-on teaching, Ball has successfully raised several thousand dollars to equip a lab for her students. She has won a number of teaching awards, including the 2010 Lloyd Ryland Outstanding High School Chemistry Teacher Award from the California Section of ACS.

To pass on her experience to others, Ball has authored several articles in the Journal of Chemical Education. One of those articles, “A High School Adventure” (1993, DOI: 10.1021/ed070p823), she coauthored with four of her students based on experiments conducted in an advanced chemistry class. All four students pursued careers in science: Two hold Ph.D.s in chemistry and physics, respectively; one is a biochemist and another is a physician.

Ball has presented posters and talks on teaching high school chemistry at ACS national meetings, as well as at meetings of the National Science Teachers Association and the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. She is a member of ACS, the National Science Teachers Association, the California Science Teachers Association, and the American Association of Chemistry Teachers.

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


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