Like many members of the American Chemical Society, I joined the organization in college. As an undergraduate, I was a member of the ACS student affiliate group at California State University, Chico, and during that time, the club members became my family. We studied together, put on high school chemistry day events, held barbecues, and organized softball games. The curriculum for a chemistry major is intense, and I appreciated the help and support I received from my peers and members of the faculty.
After I graduated, I continued to benefit from my ACS membership. I received the Journal of Chemical Education and Chemical & Engineering News; I joined the Division of Chemical Education and attended the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE); I even presented my chemical education research at ACS national meetings. Yet I missed the family-like connections of my university days.
In 2014, I read in the Journal of Chemical Educationabout the formation of the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT), and I was ecstatic. Finally, ACS was reaching out specifically to K–12 educators. I had been a member of ACS for 33 years, and I definitely wanted to be a part of this community of teachers.
Now, as president of AACT, I believe the organization has the capacity to build an inclusive community that reaches every chemistry classroom. We are a digital community, and because of that we’re well positioned to reach teachers all over the country and around the world.
Our digital platform is interactive and conversational, so teachers can ask questions and share information. The platform connects teachers from small rural schools to teachers in large city schools and teachers from schools that have different resources, science budgets, and student compositions. We’ve leveled the playing field so that everyone has access to all that AACT has to offer.
We know that newer teachers could benefit most from our community, so we’re making every effort to reach teachers where they are comfortable and where they are in their professional experiences.
Our members also extend our reach. In my time serving as president, I’ve seen firsthand not only the inspiring work that other teachers of chemistry do, but also the amplifying impact that teachers have on one another through community interaction. AACT is made up of equal parts giving and receiving, and I think it’s that balance that makes the organization such a uniquely effective community.
AACT members give. They give direction on everything from chemistry podcasts to Advanced Placement chemistry labs—and the impact of even the smallest piece of advice is amplified greatly when it benefits a large and growing community. AACT members also give their best work in the form of lesson plans, labs, and demonstrations that have stood the test of the classroom and might just save the day for a newer teacher. Members also give their efforts to building relationships, and ultimately bridges, that connect teachers across grade levels as well as connect members of the chemistry community who work in other professions—because they too have a deep, vested interest in the future of chemistry education.
AACT members also receive. I personally have received so much valuable perspective from other members who have enabled me to think more deeply about technology in the classroom, national content standards, and differentiated instruction for students at various proficiency levels—and that’s just to name a few. AACT offers a growing collection of resources that I and every other member can draw from. There’s thoughtful writing available in four annual volumes of the online journal Chemistry Solutions,as well as in other great ACS resources such as the magazine ChemMatters and the Journal of Chemical Education.There are webinars presented by fellow teachers of chemistry, simulations, videos, animations, and the discussion forum. All of these are available to members through the AACT website.
AACT also sponsors workshops at BCCE and participates in National Chemistry Week and Chemists Celebrate Earth Week. And there are small things, too: tips and ideas that may not seem earth-shattering but can brighten your students’ day and turn up the fun in the classroom just when teachers and students need it most.
Although it has existed only since 2014, AACT has become a strong and vital support system for teachers of chemistry. When I think about AACT, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, “Lift as you climb.” As AACT grows, its members grow along with it, continuously lifting up one another’s skills as their breadth of knowledge expands.
In addition to its digital platform and active membership, AACT has another asset that I believe ensures its ability to help every chemistry classroom: You. As an initiative of the world’s largest scientific society, AACT benefits from the knowledge, passion, and support of ACS members. To support AACT, you can volunteer with the Science Coaches program, sponsor membership for a teacher you know, or even become a member yourself.
Together, we can connect all teachers of chemistry with the broader chemistry community to ensure that we’re building a pipeline of skilled, enthusiastic students to further the positive impact of science on our society. To learn more about AACT, please visit teachchemistry.org.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.