[VIDEO] In Mrs. Schnacky’s Classroom, Chemistry’s A Blast
In her 13th year at EGHS, Celia Schnacky aims to have even her non-science students leave with an appreciation of chemistry.
Celia Schnacky taught preschool and kindergarten long before she decided to go back to school and become a chemistry teacher. And you can see a bit of the preschool teacher in her still, in her solicitous ways with her students.
She really cares about her students and, it seems, they care about her. How else to explain the announcement on EG Patch last month from former student Bianca Sperduti wishing “Mrs. Schnacky” a happy birthday?
“Although her class is very challenging, she makes it top priority for her students to understand. She cares so much for her students that she offers them a 24/7 chemistry hotline with her own home number! She always responds to their questions, taking time out of her personal life. Mrs. Schnacky not only cares for her students and their academic futures, but their personal lives as well. She will listen and give you advice if you're struggling, and will take as much time as she can out of her day to be there as a teacher and mentor,” the announcement read in part.
Schnacky’s decision to study chemistry was “kind of a whim,” she said in a recent interview. “It really was one of those wrong turns you take sometimes that takes you somewhere surprising.”
Her husband suggested she go back to school and become a science teacher because she knew a lot about science already and seemed to love it.
“One of the classes I had to take was chemistry and after my first year of chemistry I just wanted to take more chemistry because I liked it so much,” she said, adding, “although I hadn’t liked it in high school.”
Maybe that’s why she works hard to be a good high school chemistry teacher.
Last year, the EGHS Class of 2012 Validictorian, Daniel Ling, was named a Presidential Scholar. For the award, he named Schnacky his most most memorable and influential teacher.
“I got to go to Washington D.C. with him,” she said. “It was really really nice. There were a lot of events honoring the students and there was a teacher recognition event.”
As pleased as Schnacky was with the honor, she said it wasn’t her teaching. “I know the only reason I was his most memorable teacher was because I happened to teach the thing he happened to like the most,” she said. Ling is a freshman at Princeton now, majoring in – yes – chemistry.
He disagrees with that last comment.
“Mrs. Schnacky was not only a great chemistry teacher, but also a great mentor,” he said via email. “She clearly cares about her students and wants the best for them. I was impressed with the clarity of her lectures, and she made difficult concepts easy to understand (or at least easier). I believe she was such a great teacher because she loves teaching and loves the field of chemistry in general. It's always great to be taught by someone who loves what he/she does everyday, and it usually makes each class more enjoyable.”
Schnacky is in her 13th year at East Greenwich High School and to hear her tell it, the students have actually gotten nicer in recent years.
“I think the kids here are especially nice,” she said. “They are really sincere.”
She said she likes chemistry because it’s orderly. “I like precision and order. And I like the chemical reactions. There are some things you can have fun with.”
The chemical reactions? She saves up her favorite to do during class around her birthday. The video here shows some of the experiments, which she conducts calmly, talking all the while, asking questions about the elements involved as flame bursts, or sparks fly.
It is fun.
“I like it that kids come in on the first day of school and they don’t already know a lot about chemistry so I’m kind of breaking new ground for them,” she said in the interview. “Chemistry describes reality – it is reality because everything’s made up of atoms. Every change that you see is a chemical change or a physical change involving the structure of the materials and I just like knowing about that.”
But she knows, too, that students like Daniel Ling are few and far between.
“I’m happy for my students who don’t go on with science, who did well and liked it and will carry that knowledge with them,” she said. “That’s really what I want, for them to have a scientific world view.”