Stories from the Field

California Casualty Awardees Patrick Hemmingsen: Confronting Chemistry

Great educators have great stories. This series gives a glimpse of the ideas, practices, and experiences of the recipients of the NEA Foundation’s California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Today, we’re sharing the words of Patrick Hemmingsen, a science educator at Raymore Peculiar High School in Peculiar, MO. 

I never enjoyed the physical sciences, especially chemistry, when I was a student. My disdain did not come from the content but the unenthusiastic lectures, cold demeanors, and insipid lab investigations from my high school courses and university professors. I specialized in the life sciences because they were exciting and interconnected, and I wanted to convey that fervor in my classroom.

This made me hesitant when district budget cuts opened an opportunity for me to teach chemistry. How could I teach something that I did not personally enjoy? How could I expect my stents to be excited to learn if I was not excited to teach?

I decided to rise above my fears by confronting my vulnerabilities and to present the class in the way I wished my chemistry teachers had taught me. I will be forever grateful for that opportunity because it ignited an eagerness for chemistry greater than any love I had for life science.

I share this experience with my students each year to illustrate that a positive attitude and open mind can change your opinion on any subject. Once, I was an unhappy chemistry student, but now I could not see myself teaching anything else. This helps create an impenetrable teacher-student rapport necessary for any successful classroom.

Meet more of the 2018 NEA Foundation awardees hereLearn more about the NEA Foundation’s Awards for Teaching Excellence criteria and nominations process.

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