Guest Blog: Chemical Kim

A chemist in purple gloves uses a pipette.
A chemist in purple gloves uses a pipette.
Chemistry is full of nitrogen, erbium, dysprosium and puns. It's quite NErDy.

Kim Hilton, AKA Chemical Kim, offers teaching advice and the lessons she's learned since she graduated from the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences at Michigan Tech.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve taken my love of teaching chemistry to the community and volunteer bringing hands-on learning to schools, organizations, libraries, the children’s hospital and television science segments on ABC affiliate stations (WZZM 13 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and ABC 7 in Fort Myers, Florida). I present a blend of smart and entertaining hands-on science activities that motivate kids to continually question and investigate their world. My encouragement is to never stop being curious and never stop seeking the answers. 

In addition, I use mobile technology in my teaching in the chemistry classroom, laboratory and science outreach. I’ve authored several technology grants and have led several workshops at local colleges and schools teaching on the integration of mobile technology in the classroom.

I started into the education program at Michigan Tech as a junior as a result of two friends majoring in mathematics that convinced me to join them. I really wasn’t expecting to go into teaching; I loved chemistry and was planning on a career as a research chemist. Standing in front of a group of people was always so fearful to me. As I got further in the education program, I started to discover how much I was enjoying my classes and it got me thinking how many college chemistry professors really don’t know how to teach. This motivated me more in the education program at MTU. I started to feel like I could be that change and teach chemistry better than it was taught to me. The education program at MTU gave me that “face your fear and find your passion” moment.

"I faced my fear of being in front of a group of people and found a passion that has since made going to work every day a joy."Chemical Kim

My advice to current teachers is to do what you love. If you don’t find a love in your subject or in teaching it, don’t force it. The teaching world is filled with too many who complain about teaching, students and the hard work for so little pay. Yes, the pay is little and, yes, the work is hard… but if you love it, you will not regret a day of your career choice. You will make a difference to the world because you’re giving the good part of yourself, the happy part.

Always be yourself and do not teach a particular style just because that’s how you were taught. Teaching is always evolving; be ready for constant change. The best experiences you can bring to the classroom are your life experiences, so use those experiences and your personality to make the best environment for learning. In the early years of your teaching, keep learning more hands-on about your subject and education. Substitute teach, participate in research, attend workshops and seminars, become active at your school. And if you have time, volunteer in your community.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.