AACT Member Spotlight: Heather Weck

By AACT on August 28, 2019

Sherri rukes aact spotlightEvery month AACT will spotlight a passionate member who is dedicated to enhancing chemistry inside and outside the classroom. This month we spotlight AACT President and chemistry teacher at Harriton High School of Lower Merion School District in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, Heather Weck.

Why did you become a teacher? Did you always want to teach?

I’ve wanted to teach since I was five years old. My father was a teacher. I recall being enchanted when I visited his classroom. The hard part was narrowing down what I would major in because I loved all of the subjects…well, maybe not history or PE. I made the right call by choosing chemistry.

What topic do you find hardest for students and how do you approach teaching it?

Every year I complain to my colleagues about how terrible I am at teaching IMFs and phase changes; nearly all first-year chemistry students struggle with this concept. It builds on prior knowledge, like Lewis structures, VSEPR geometries, and polarity, so any gaps students have surely show. Since a colleague introduced me to particle diagrams, I feel that I do a better job. I also use analogies. The good news is that by the time a student reaches AP chemistry, they seem to really understand IMFs. I think more time to make connections is key.

How do you monitor the progress of your students? How do you ensure under-performers excel?

I am forever grateful to my cooperating teacher, Amy Thompson, who introduced the idea of “half-sheets” to me 20 years ago. In education-speak, they are formative assessments. Half-sheets are low-stakes mini-quizzes that let students and me know where they stand on current topics. Low performance generates an invitation to attend “lunch and learn” for extra practice.

What rewards do you get from teaching?

I get to belly laugh every day. I am inspired by the resilience of teenagers. Also, I love learning. My colleagues and students make sure I keep learning.

In three words, what would your students say they learned from you?

Dad-jokes, stoichiometry, and frankness.