Eugenia Paulus - Passion for Teaching Statement

I want to be the teacher who "makes a difference" in the lives of my students. In my opinion, teaching is not merely the transfer of information from teacher to student-it is much more than that. Teaching involves challenging students to reach their fullest potential, and helping them gain lifelong skills to function effectively. I also believe teaching is encouraging students to incorporate science into their thinking so they develop a scientific attitude, one that helps them apply principles learned in science to solving problems in daily life.

Reaching true scientific understanding requires students to have the precise tools and techniques. Early in my teaching, I observed that many students lacked the hands-on laboratory skills needed for success in a chemistry class. I realized that students who were unprepared for the laboratory segment of a class needed guidance but that there wasn't a method to help them master the requisite skills. With the help of a faculty grant, I created a Web-based, step-by-step hands-on training tutorial that is now used extensively by students. It has been rewarding to see them become motivated and engaged in laboratory research after using the tutorial.

Talking with my students, I also learned that many had to work to stay in school but held jobs that did not promote their scientific learning. I applied for a grant and collaborated with a chemistry department colleague on a survey of area industries, which revealed that these potential employers needed job applicants to be proficient in laboratory techniques. Their survey responses formed the basis for a new industry skills course that was introduced the following year.

However, the new course required students to train on sophisticated equipment and instrumentation that the college didn't have. We were able to raise $65,000 from the surveyed employers, which was matched by state funding. This enabled us to buy the special equipment. Subsequently, many of the valued laboratory procedures have been incorporated into the chemistry curriculum, preparing students with the skills that potential employers are seeking.

During my sabbatical year, I taught undergraduate chemistry at the University of Minnesota and was struck by another realization-one big difference between two-year and four-year institutions is the opportunity students at four-year institutions have to do undergraduate research. I therefore vowed to make this possible for my community college students.

I remember that one of my students believed I was too strict and demanding in the laboratory. After graduation, she transferred to the University of Minnesota where some professors required her to take a hands-on lab test before they would consider her for the undergraduate research experience she sought. Six months later, she returned to thank me for my toughness. At present, she is attending Mayo Medical School with a full tuition scholarship.

My greatest thrill as a teacher is when the light of understanding shines in my students' eyes. This might happen when we burn nuts to measure their calorific value or when I make sandwiches to explain the limiting reactant concept. But my reward lies in the alumni who return to thank me for having inspired and empowered them-and who swear by me when they used to swear at me, inform me they want my teaching to remain as it is right now, appreciate that I opened their eyes to a whole new world and are grateful for the difference I made in their lives.