You teach at Carter High School, which is sort of in the country. Does that make it tougher to teach using new technology?
I don't think so—they're just as up on their technology and what's hip and on the edge as anywhere else I've seen.
What's your favorite class to teach?
You're gonna make me pick one? Right now, it's probably Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science class, followed by chemistry. They're probably tied.
Is there something you're being recognized for that you're particularly proud of?
One of the top ones is bringing the first AP science class that Carter has offered to the school.
Do you have a policy or a budget line item you'd like Knox County Schools to have?
There is one—having a budget in place that would allow teachers to go to professional conferences to learn about methods or content without having to pay for it themselves. There are quite a few districts across the nation that provide that, but not Knox County.
How do you reach an unmotivated student?
The first thing, I want to make it interesting, and include something relevant or of interest to them personally. If nothing else, I make it fun, like blowing things up. Mentos and Diet Coke, oh yes.
You've been acknowledged for developing the county's Environmental Chemistry class, how'd that come about?
I wrote the curriculum for Knox County about five years ago, based on a program that the American Chemical society has called "Chemistry in the Community." We've had the class at Carter for two years. It's an entirely different approach to chemistry than the typical heavy theory, heavy math. It has allowed students who would not ordinarily take a chem class to be exposed to chemistry.
Do you still blow things up?
Of course. It's not chemistry if you don't light a fire a few times.