Claire Marie Huff teaches seventh-grade science and Advanced Placement biology at the Atlanta Classical Academy, a public charter school located in Buckhead. She’s been teaching for seven years.
Q: What attracted you to teaching at first?
A: While at Georgia Tech, my chemistry fraternity visited an Atlanta area middle school to perform some science demonstrations for the students. Their excitement and curiosity were infectious. I loved being a part of that day, guiding the students, answering questions and sharing their enthusiasm for science.
After I graduated, I went to work in the adhesives industry as a chemist, which felt anti-climactic after my college career. My days were monotonous. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to teach eighth grade physical science and I left industry to become a teacher. As soon as I started, I saw that every day in the classroom is different than the day before. It was extremely rewarding. I haven’t looked back since.
Q: Has the appeal changed?
A: Every year there are different challenges, but I still love everything about teaching and feel so lucky to share every day with my students. Every year, I try to find new ways to engage in my school community. I have taught and sponsored the Atlanta Classical Academy string ensemble for the past two years as well as sponsored the ACA science club. We have just begun a schoolwide service project to rehabilitate some land into an Atlanta city park.
Q: What keeps you going year after year?
A: What I look forward to the most every year is having another opportunity to make my lessons better than the year before. I want to be more thorough, more exciting, more challenging, and it is important to me to be as up-to-date as possible with what is happening in the global scientific community.
Another thing that I look forward to is finding new ways to illustrate scientific concepts with demonstrations, activities and hands-on explorations. Teaching is a work in progress and I love trying to make my science classes more engaging and enriching year after year.
Q: What do you think makes a great teacher?
A: A great teacher loves the subject they teach. A great teacher loves learning just as much as teaching. A great teacher respects their students. And, perhaps most importantly, a great teacher does not take herself or himself too seriously.
Q: What do you want to see in your students?
A: I want them to look at the periodic table [of elements] and think of it as the pantry in the universe’s kitchen, containing the ingredients of all matter around them. I want them to grow into adults who have a working knowledge of different branches of science and can critically read a scientific article with understanding and insight. I want them to be smart and kind stewards of the world they live in because they understand and have great respect for life and the world around them.
Q: How do you engage your students?
A: We have a new science laboratory at ACA where my AP biology students engage in weekly scientific inquiry. Throughout the year, the seventh-graders may be found using microscopes in the lab, making their own periodic table, burning magnesium on the tennis court or classifying household acids and bases in the classroom. Bringing science to life in the classroom or lab is a guaranteed way to engage students.
Q: Is there a “trick” that works to get students involved?
A: No, I do not have a trick.
Q: What do you hope your students take away from your class?
A: I hope that students leave my classroom having a respect for the breadth and depth of science, curious to learn more. I want students to see that science is all around them, present in every aspect of our lives.
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