Steven Kawolsky – High School Chemistry Teacher
Teacher Interview with Steven Kawolsky
A high school Chemistry teacher in Columbus, Ohio with over 30-years of experience under his belt.
I received my Bachelor Degree from Penn State University in Education; then continued with my Master’s Degree in Chemistry.
Your Current Educational Career Choice: nature and location.
I am that chemistry teacher everybody warns you about. I love my job, and teach high school chemistry to 10th and 11th grade students in Columbus, Ohio. This is hard for me being a Penn State alumnus, however, my students don’t give me too hard of a time – its usually the other teachers…lol
How many hours do you work each week?
I have been teaching for 30 years now, and the one thing I can honestly say is that there is no direct answer for this question. It can range from 40 hours per week – to more than 60 (especially during conference weeks).
How much time are you able to spend with your family, friends?
Most of my free time is spent with my fellow science nerd friends. My wife of 27 years passed away a few years ago from Cancer, and the past few years have been a struggle, but thanks to a great group of friends and collegues, it’s been a steady improvement.
Do you have time for hobbies/recreational activities? If yes, how much time?
Chemistry teachers tend to have pretty interesting hobbies that contrary to popular belief or pop culture don’t include being manufactures of drugs or finding clever ways of blowing things up. I actually enjoy painting, and spend most of my free time doing such. However, my canvass is a classic car.
Can you take us through what a 9-5 (or 6 am—10 pm) day actually entails for someone in your field?
This is the outline of my day:
- Wake up every morning at 5:45. No snooze button….;-(
- Get to work by 7:00
- First period; Introduction to Chemistry. Most of my students are 10th
- Second period; AP Chemistry. Many 10th grade students in this class to, and we teach Advanced Placement for future college credit if they pass the AP Exam.
- Break (for about 10 minutes I get to have a cup of coffee)
- Third Period; Second Intro to Chemistry class.
- Fourth Period; One more intro to Chemistry class
- Lunch – our lunch period is about 45 minutes, so I’ll spend it grading homework or exams typically. Also enjoy my fresh turkey sandwich that I made earlier in the morning.
- Fifth Period: Chemistry II. This is a unique class that just started up last year in our district. It’s for students that really enjoyed their first experience and we get deep into chemical reactions – we haven’t blown up anything in this class; yet.
- Sixth Period: Intro to Chemistry and last one for the day.
After all the classes are done, I spend about an hour or two grading or prepping for the next few days. I also complete inventory of supplies and work with student aids on some of their projects. I head home around 4pm.
In the past few years, I’ve also taught at a local community college in the evening. I typically teach lecture Monday – Wed – Friday and have lab hours Tuesday and Thursday starting at 7pm till 9.
Why did you enter the field of becoming a Teacher?
I have always wanted to be a chemistry teacher ever since my first lab experiment. Like most science teachers, I was fascinated by Star Trek, and Star Wars; but wanted to discover real world applications to help improve the efficiency of common, everyday items.
What characteristics do you think allow someone to thrive in this career field?
Having fun – period! Too many teachers focus their efforts on structure, time management or trying too hard to cram info down the throats of students. Each kid is unique and will comprehend information differently. It’s critical (especially in Science) to have fun with the kids. Teach from your heart, even if you’re a right brain thinker.
On a scale from 1-10 how hard was it to get where you are now? Was it worth the journey?
For me the hardest time was during the college years. I played Football for Penn State University and that took up a lot of my ‘free time’. However, I had many great coaches and teammates that helped me along this path. I’d say from 1 – 10 it was 6.5.
What one thing would you like to see changed in your field?
It would be wonderful to have an easy answer to this question. In chemistry, all things change – and this field has also advanced in recent years as our technology has improved. We use many computer modules and that really helps the kids today learn more and at an accelerated growth rate. I’m pretty satisfied with what we are doing now, but that might be my 30 years of teaching catching up with me.
What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?
Retirement is coming up in a few years. As such, I think I’ve accomplished quite a bit during my time. There are many previous students who have done some amazing things in their lives and several of my most prized possessions are letters from them thanking me for my impact. That’s really all that matters.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
There are so many things I could pass on to future Chemistry or Science teachers and I’m actually writing a book about that now. I’ll publish that in the future; so when I do, buy the book. In all seriousness though, just have fun and teach from the heart. You’ll receive a lot of advice from previous teachers, so pick items that work for you and integrate them into your career field of choice.
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