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AACT: Welcoming K–12 Teachers Of Chemistry

by Diane Grob Schmidt, 2015 ACS President
February 23, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 8

Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
ACS president Diane Grob Schmidt.
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

The theme for my 2015 American Chemical Society presidential year is “Inspiring and Innovating for Tomorrow.” Within that theme, I am proud to be a champion for the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT), launched last fall by ACS (C&EN, Sept. 1, 2014, page 65).

Teachers play a central role in preparing K–12 students to be STEM-savvy citizens and consumers and inspiring them to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. We all know chemists who credit their interest in and love for chemistry to their high school chemistry teacher.

Teaching is a rewarding, yet challenging, profession. Teachers are more than educators: They shoulder significant administrative responsibilities, serve as advisers to after-school clubs and activities, and provide guidance to students on a range of academic and personal issues. Studies have suggested that many of these teachers carry out their work in settings that are not supportive of their success. As a result, approximately half of all K–12 teachers across all disciplines leave the profession in the first five years of teaching.

AACT hopes to reduce that loss by ensuring that chemistry teachers have a support system for success. Through AACT, ACS is playing an important role in sustaining excellent teachers of chemistry by providing quality teaching resources in a centralized location, such as reliable information about “what works” in the chemistry classroom, and opportunities for networking and professional development.

AACT has already gathered a robust collection of teaching resources, many of them created by K–12 teachers of chemistry. In addition, the association’s online periodical, Chemistry Solutions, offers a venue for teachers to share resources and ideas. Networking is already taking place through webinars and social media, with new collaboration tools being developed in the coming year. AACT plans to offer its first national conference in 2016 to provide an opportunity for face-to-face networking, resource dissemination, and professional development.

The significance of AACT is demonstrated by Dow Chemical’s $1 million commitment to serve as its sole founding partner (C&EN, Jan. 26, page 6). The goals of AACT are in full alignment with Dow’s STEMtheGap initiative, which the company says is designed to “build the workforce of tomorrow by empowering teachers, motivating student achievement, developing careers, and collaborating with communities to transform STEM education into a driver for innovation, manufacturing, and economic prosperity.” A key feature of the AACT-Dow partnership is teacher summits, which will bring together teachers in Dow communities to develop teaching resources, such as lesson plans, multimedia tools, and demonstrations, informed by the real-world experiences of Dow scientists and engineers. The teaching assets developed during each summit will be disseminated to the larger AACT community for use in classrooms across the nation.

Since AACT’s launch, more than 1,600 people have joined the association; some 88% of them are K–12 teachers, and the others are people like me who believe that teachers hold the key to “Inspiring and Innovating for Tomorrow.” They include individuals involved in chemistry education research and chemistry teacher preparation, along with members of the chemistry community who believe in the work of AACT. I am delighted that ACS local sections are reaching out to chemistry teachers in their communities and sponsoring their memberships in AACT, which are offered at a very affordable $50 per year. Additionally, a number of ACS members have provided AACT memberships as gifts for K–12 teachers of chemistry in their communities. By partnering with AACT members, ACS members can identify ways in which they, as individuals or through their companies, can work with their local teachers to provide outstanding chemistry education to all students.

ACS has a long history of supporting K–12 teachers and students of chemistry through a variety of resources and programs. Examples include, an online resource of guided inquiry-based lesson plans for middle school teachers; Project SEED, which offers summer research experiences to high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds; and high school ChemClubs (celebrating their 10th anniversary in 2015), which engage students in exploring chemistry through after-school programming. In addition, the ACS-Hach Programs provide scholarships to preservice and second-career teachers, as well as grants to teachers already in the high school chemistry classroom. AACT adds a new foundation of support within ACS for K–12 chemistry teachers.

Outstanding chemistry teachers are a prerequisite for the future chemistry majors who will develop alternative energy sources, provide clean drinking water to the more than 7 billion people on the planet, and solve the myriad challenges of sustainability. It is our responsibility as members of ACS to strongly support these K–12 teachers of chemistry in sharing their passion for our science with our future citizens and ACS colleagues. Advancing the work of AACT represents one way in which our membership can demonstrate the strength of its commitment to STEM teaching and learning and to the workforce of tomorrow. Please join me in making our new colleagues in AACT feel welcome as part of the larger ACS family. I encourage you to learn more about AACT by visiting its website at


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