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Posted: December 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Judy Smith

Teaching chemistry comes naturally to EHS teacher

 Eastside High School teacher Judy Smith realizes chemistry isn’t fun for everyone. That’s why she takes every possible step to help ensure her students’ success in what can be a much dreaded course.

 She is primarily concerned with helping her students pass the graduation test and also desires whole heartedly to lend her students knowledge that will help them succeed in college.

 "When you can be a part of somebody’s success, it’s a great feeling," Smith said. "That’s what I aim to do….help my students succeed."

 So how does she turn sighs and eye rolls over the mere thought of chemistry into enthusiasm? According to Smith, she tries to connect academically with her students. Through lectures and instructional time, she strives to talk about things her students will relate to. Part of this requires her staying abreast of current trends in music and television. Sometimes she is able to relate pop culture topics to chemistry. At other times, she merely comes across as a pretty cool teacher, somebody the kids genuinely want to strive to do well for.

 She implements experimental labs every few days. The labs are a nice change of pace and they help reinforce some of the lessons studied in class.

 Smith admits her students struggle with the applied math necessary for chemistry courses but said she has found once the kids see the math applied, it often becomes easier for them.

 "The math is probably the one true stumbling block," she said. "I let my students know I’m available before and after school for extra help and we always review problems in class as well."

 Smith, who has a genuine love for her students and strives to attend their extracurricular activities, including their sporting events and plays, tells her friends and family she didn’t choose to become a teacher. Instead, the teaching profession chose her.

 "I was working on my chemistry degree and thought I wanted to work in an industrial lab," she said. "But I’m really social so one of my college professors advised me against it. Lab jobs are very solitary."

 After college, Smith took a part time chemistry-related job anyway. Later, a superintendent friend in Carrollton needed a science teacher and placed a phone call to Smith. Although she was not interested in teaching, she agreed only to teach life science and earth science for one year. To her surprise, she really liked it, and she decided to continue teaching.

 "I knew it was a great fit," Smith said. ‘I was able to get points across to my students. I could tell very early on that I was very effective in the classroom."

 Eventually, she obtained her master’s of secondary science education at the University of Georgia.

 Smith said she was first introduced to chemistry in middle school. She somehow fell into the habit of reading product labels. Discovering a curiosity to know what every long word meant, she began reading an old chemistry book for clarity and understanding. In high school, she took her first chemistry lab class and she became absolutely smitten with the subject matter.

 "I loved chemistry from the first minute I was introduced to it," she said. "The reason I love it so much is because it is so logical."

 It has been 21 years since Smith began her career as a science and chemistry teacher. She laughs now about how five fellow faculty members, including teacher Jason Stokes, were her students. She is often visited by former students and is always impressed and touched when she discovers that an occasional former student has moved on to a chemistry career.

 "Sometimes they will even tell me things about chemistry I don’t know," she said. "The best thing about teaching is that you have a hand in somebody’s success and sometimes their path in life."

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