Ask Central High School’s Jane Raymond the question she says is a common one she hears from some non-educators, “Are you teaching these kids anything they can use?,” and the answer is yes.
“Chemistry is everywhere!” said the teacher, pointing to an old road sign hanging on her classroom wall that warns of frost heaves. “What causes frost heaves? The physical reactions of freezing and thawing.”
Raymond, who has been at Central High School since 1999, likes to bring those kinds of everyday life examples into her lessons. She says chemistry also helps students learn lifelong problem-solving skills.
“If an experiment doesn’t go right the first time, they shouldn’t think ‘Oh, well,’ but instead ‘What can I do next?’” she said.
Raymond’s students respect and thank her for what she teaches. Like the young man several years ago who was inspired to continue studying chemistry in college because she encouraged him to stick with her class and said he could do it.
“He invited me to his graduation from Vanderbilt University,” Raymond said. “I can’t believe he remembered me and thought I had such an impact.”
As it turns out, several of Raymond’s former students remember her, and they nominated her for the New England Institute of Chemists Secondary School Chemistry Teacher Award. Raymond will receive that award, given to one high school chemistry teacher from each New England state, during the NEIC awards dinner at Brandeis University on April 21.
Members of NEIC, many of whom teach in higher education, seek out nominations for the annual award from their undergraduate and advanced degree students. The award honors teachers who have “encouraged an interest in the field of chemistry through innovative and inspirational teaching, improved the image of chemists and chemistry. . .and offered opportunities to students who might otherwise miss the ‘chemistry’ experience.”
Two University of New Hampshire chemical engineering students who graduated from Central High School thought Raymond was an obvious choice for the NEIC award.
“I think Mrs. Raymond was the reason I looked into chemical engineering because I enjoyed her class so much,” read one of the nomination submissions. “She was always enthusiastic about teaching every day and presented the material in an interesting and enjoyable way,” wrote another.
Indeed, Raymond says enthusiasm is critical, and she’s always coming up with new ideas to illustrate classroom lessons or to conduct lab experiments.
“If you love your subject, the kids feel it and know it.”
But Raymond doesn’t want to take all the credit for her students’ successes.
“Our whole department is a team,” she said. “We all work hard together to design our lab lessons and make sure experiments work.”
Teaching since 1974, Raymond says she couldn’t be happier since arriving at Central 17 years ago. The dedicated and knowledgeable faculty, along with the diverse student population make teaching everything she wants it to be.
“I look forward to coming to school every single day.”