Science Teachers and Students Rise Up to Take On New Challenges

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Camille Crumbley, Staff writer

Chamblee seems a little understaffed yet again as some seniors and juniors start the new semester in different teachers’ classrooms in light of science teacher Tamera Hunter’s transfer to another school, but the science department has come together to ensure that all students receive instruction.

Hunter transferred at the end of the fall semester, but the Blue and Gold Newspaper was not able to contact her to discuss the terms of her resignation.

Hunter’s physics and physical science classes have been spread out between Pamela Gilbert-Smith, Shaheen Begum, Deondrick Mack, Karen Porter-Davis, and DeAnn Peterson. Students in Advanced Placement Chemistry, previously taught by Gilbert-Smith, are now left without a teacher and moved to a virtual classroom, while the science department shifts to accommodate Hunter’s students.

Mack and Porter-Davis have taken students into their physics and physical science classes, while Gilbert-Smith now teaches a physics class in place of her AP Chemistry class. Begum and Peterson have added an additional class called Extended Day and now teach six classes with only one planning period.   

These teachers are hard at work to adjust to the changes in their classes. Students currently enrolled in Porter-Davis, Mack, and Gilbert’s classes had class sizes adjusted as students were shuffled around to make a separate class for Hunter’s students. Teachers are aware of what was taught in Hunter’s classroom and are moving forward from there.

Having extra students requires extra work for the teachers, but “[they] are happy to do so,” said Begum.

The science teachers are teaming up well and are glad to help, Begum claims. It is hard to find qualified science teachers for hire and it was better for one of Chamblee’s current science teachers to teach Hunter’s classes rather than a substitute, according to Begum.

“Each of the teachers that picked up a class is responsible for generating their lesson plans [for Hunter’s students]- just like regular classes,” said Peterson.

However, there are changes for students as well. For Hunter’s former students, the teaching style, the workload, and the expectations are different as they transition to new science teachers.

“Mr. Mack does a really good job teaching us and helps us understand the material. In Ms. Hunter’s class we did more online work, which was okay, but Mr. Mack’s class is more hands on,” said former Hunter student junior Joana Escandon.

Students are excited to be in classes with new teachers. One student now in Begum’s class wrote her a note telling Begum how excited she was to be in her class and how much she had learned in only two days.

Begum calls her new students very thankful to have a teacher and sees a strong desire to learn in them, which motivates her in turn.

Parents of Hunter’s students had a mixture of reactions to the switch in teachers, ranging from shock and anger to joy and anticipation.

“My parents were a little bit shocked and disappointed that I was switching teachers in the middle of the year, but they were happy that I got to experience a different teacher as well,” said former Hunter student junior Aya Mackhaul.

For the AP Chemistry students, the change was just as abrupt.

“It was last minute,” said senior Emma Dickinson. “I’d talked to Ms. Adle and she had called my parent the day before school was going to come in and she told me that the decision was made the day before we were supposed to come back to school.”

It was shocking to the science department as well as the students that the AP class was moved online.

“AP Chem as an online class is new for us, so this is a chance to explore a new method of learning,” said Peterson.

Parents were surprised at the change as well.

“My parents were a little confused about the class, change,” said Dickinson. “They were unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘virtual classroom’. They entrusted me, however, to get a good grade and get through my last semester as a senior.”

These few students immediately started the Georgia Virtual School when they came back to school. They spend second period in the library with librarian Christine Holland as their instructor.

Holland is the instructor, but she mainly gives the students access to the computers. The students have an actual online teacher for the class. He was a researcher at the Center for Disease Control and teaches AP Chemistry at a school as well as virtual classes on the side, according to senior Alexandra Towner.

“[The teacher] is there, but the purpose of the class is for him not to be there everyday necessarily in a teaching format, but we can email him through the website and call him if needed, but he has a study session at eight o’clock every Monday, so the purpose of that is for him to kind of teach us and communicate with us if we have a question for him, not necessarily in a lecture style,” said Dickinson.

The online classes are well organized with a schedule for the next eighteen weeks. Assignments are listed with due dates in weekly periods. Students are responsible to complete work on time and can work ahead. All the content is laid out for the students and it is their job to review and learn it.

Although the online class is just starting up, the students have adjusted quickly and seem to be optimistic about it going forward.

“ At this point it’s going well,” said Dickinson. “I like it a lot. I have the ability to really go at my own pace with some of the chemistry content. I’ll have to see going into the future if it’s really going to help me on the AP exam.”

However, the online class lack the ability to allow students to perform hands on labs. According to Dickinson, all the students have been sent a package of basic lab chemicals and the class plans to complete the labs together, but the labs are designed to be done at home. Students are currently performing virtual labs.

“The only thing that’s really hard are labs and this is AP Chemistry, so we need to be doing labs a lot. In first semester chem our main focus was labs, when we did titration labs, which I’m thankful for because we got to do it and get it in,” said Towner. “But now we’re in the media center, so I don’t know how you do a chem lab in there.”

Nevertheless, the students and teachers have all come together to make the best out of this situation.

“The bad news for the department is that we lost a teacher and had to re-organize the schedule,” said Peterson. “This can be challenging for students and teachers. The good news is that once again CCHS Science Department has risen to the challenge. If you walk into any one of the classes, you will see some excellent teaching occurring. As co-department chair, I’m proud of how the whole department responded with a ‘let’s do this’ attitude.”