Last Word: The Next Generation

Author(s): Melissa Landers
Photographs by: Provided

If you met me now –– a senior about to start my student teaching for chemistry education and a supplemental instruction leader for General Chemistry (CHM 111/112) –– you’d never know that being a teacher hadn’t been in my plans all along. 

Melissa Landers
Melissa Landers

Inspired by many of my own high school teachers, I loved math and science. So, I decided to major in chemical engineering, and naturally Purdue seemed like a good choice. However, as I got into my engineering courses, I found that I wasn’t as interested in them as I thought I would be. I enjoyed the learning, but I wasn’t passionate about being an engineer.

What I really enjoyed was helping my friends to study. While tutoring a friend in chemistry, I loved seeing her finally understand and begin to succeed, and I began to think about being a teacher myself. Two years later –– after some education classes, field observations and a supplemental instruction position –– and I love where I’m at.

The way that the education program at Purdue works allows me to become licensed to teach without giving up any science courses. I am a student in the College of Science, which means I get to take all of the same courses that a regular chemistry student does, along with my education classes. In these classes, I’ve had a lot of opportunities for experience, since we spend multiple semesters observing and even teaching in local schools.

This past year I began working with Supplemental Instruction (SI), an academic support program run through the Office of Student Success. As an SI leader for general chemistry, I attend lecture and then plan and hold weekly review sessions for the students. This has been a great experience because it has both challenged me and provided me with invaluable insight.

An integral part of Supplemental Instruction is not only helping the students to grasp the concepts, but also to obtain the skillset needed for future success. Thinking of creative ways to reinforce tough material and instill good study skills has been a welcome challenge. I also have learned a lot from the students I work with, as I get to see firsthand which topics in chemistry give them the most difficulty, and what helps them to overcome that. I’ve even found myself using explanations and examples that my own high school chemistry teacher would use.

My experiences have helped me to realize just how crucial having good science and math teachers was to my education. Science is a necessary part of any curriculum. It helps students to learn about and understand the behavior of the world around us. Whether it’s using ever-changing technologies, knowing about nutrition and medicine, or understanding our impact on the planet, science is involved and it affects everyone. It inspires me to be a part of such a critical field, and I have both a challenging and exciting opportunity to teach our next generation just how important science is.

Melissa Landers is a chemistry education major in the College of Science.