Plano West Chemistry Teacher Awarded the 2020 American Chemical Society Southwest Region High School Teaching Award
October 29, 2020
Jo King, Plano West Senior High School AP chemistry team leader, is the recipient of the 2020 ACS SWRM (American Chemical Society, Southwest Region) High School Teaching Award for her outstanding contributions to high school chemistry education.
Before a teacher can win the Southwest Regional award they have to first win the ACS Local Section award. Jo is also the 2017 recipient of the Werner Schulz Award for excellence in chemistry teaching from the ACS DFW. Dr. Diana Mason, professor emeritus at the University of North Texas who nominated Jo for the ACS awards, both local DFW Section and the regional (Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico), along with Dr. Mihaela C. Stefan, Eugene McDermott Professor Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Texas at Dallas. According to Dr. Mason, "Jo King is by far one of the most gifted educators that I've ever had the privilege to work with. She is an excellent student of chemistry and a very gifted teacher! Her drive, initiative, work habits, character and performance all carry the highest level of distinction. In all honesty I am unaware of any high school teacher in the Southwest Region that has performed at her level."
Jo has a self-professed passion for AP chemistry and has been teaching chemistry throughout her entire 33-year career, including on-level, pre-AP, AP, dual credit, organic and biochemistry. The 2020-21 school year marks her second year at Plano West where she is also the ChemClub and Key Club sponsor.
A former student had this to say regarding her time in Jo's chemistry class and the impact it made, “She did not only teach me chemistry, she taught me life lessons along the way. She went above and beyond teaching expectations and taught me how to work hard, persevere, and most of all, to believe in myself. I had her class two years in a row. The first time for just normal chemistry, and the second time for dual credit for college. Those were the two hardest classes I have ever taken in my life, but by the end of them I was thankful and still am today. Every day during the school year, my whole class would go get food for lunch and then we would sit in Mrs. King’s class working on problems or asking questions, and every day Mrs. King would be there to help or correct or just give words of encouragement. She was hard on us, and expected nothing less than our best."
Jo King received her B.S. in psychology with a minor in chemistry from Midwestern State University, her M.A. in religion from Wayland Baptist University,and her M.S. in chemistry/chemistry education from the University of North Texas. She is an active member of the chemical education community and currently the co-chair for the Pre-College Committee for the Division of Chemical Education for the American Chemical Society.
Dr. Mason has described Jo as "...a Renaissance woman. She is quite proficient in teaching chemistry and her pedagogical content knowledge is superior. Her broad-based academic preparation including studies in psychology, English, and religion in addition to chemistry makes her without a doubt a lifelong learner, a vital model that she is able to impart to her students to inspire them to always continue to learn. Her depth of knowledge of what is considered disparate spheres is also another reason that her unique skills are frequently called upon to write questions and develop curricula for several national and state organizations including the Texas Education Agency (TExES)."
Her scientific/educational memberships include:
- American Chemical Society
- ACS Division of Chemical Education
- American Association of Chemistry Teachers
- National Science Teachers Association
- Science Teachers Association of Texas
- Associated Chemistry Teachers of Texas
- Texas Classroom Teachers Association
The winner of this regional award is selected based on the following attributes:
- The quality of the nominee’s teaching; unusually effective methods of presentation should be emphasized;
- The nominee’s ability to challenge and inspire students;
- Extracurricular work in chemistry or a chemical science by the nominee, including science fairs, science clubs, and activities that stimulate the interest of young people in chemistry and related sciences;
- A willingness to keep up-to-date in the field, as evidenced by the pursuit of a higher degree in chemistry or a chemical science, enrollment in refresher courses and summer institutes, regular attendance at scientific meetings, membership in professional organizations, and other means of self-improvement;
- Evidence of leadership and/or active involvement within the profession.
Regional awardees receive a monetary award, plaque and invitation to the awards banquet (the banquet will not take place this year due to COVID-19 concerns). Jo expresses her thanks to Lisa Carrigan, Plano West assistant principal, and David Carroll, science department chair, for helping her adjust to her new teaching role in Plano ISD.
Philosophy of Teaching
Teaching is not a profession. It is a calling. Teaching is the joy of watching young people mature into their full potential and the honor of being allowed to be a part of that growth. In order to lead the young people in this endeavor, a teacher must care for each student as an individual and realize that each has a unique and cherished place in the society, possesses different gifts and learns in distinctive ways. A teacher’s job explores the best pathway to engender excellence for each individual.
Encouraging excellence with students starts with respect for the students and an excitement for the curriculum. Additionally, from the first day until the last, the students are led to believe that they are the best, the brightest and the future of the USA. This attitude and expectation produces pride in themselves and actually leads to greater performance overall. A favorite phrase to a struggling student is, “I believe in you more than you believe in yourself. Now, let’s convince you.” All students can achieve excellence.
However, that excellence needs to be nurtured. The job of the teacher includes encouragement, cajolement, cheerleading, discipline and love. Each student deserves special treatment through the difficulties of chemistry. Often this requires extra time and effort by both the teacher and the student, but it is well worth it when the initial scare of chemistry for the student is supplanted by excitement and confidence.
Tools are needed also to achieve the goal. Study skills, laboratory methods and communication proficiency are learned expertise. Covid-19 means adding in new virtual platforms and methods never used before. Chemistry then includes cross-curricular activities that will facilitate excellence in all areas of the students’ lives. Chemistry includes a great amount of reading, writing and math and the students must be shown how they relate to chemistry. Often chemistry lies at the crossroads between the students’ childhood and their adulthood. The maturation that occurs within high school chemistry is tremendous. The tools needed to smooth the progress of this journey should be included in the chemistry curriculum.
Chemistry should also take into account that interconnectivity of all the sciences. High school students tend to see chemistry, biology and physics as separate entities when, in reality, all of the sciences blend. This intermingling needs to be emphasized. The students then receive a more complete picture of science in general, as well as the centrality of chemistry to the overall scheme. Enabling them to see this allows the students more of a chance to make that essential “real-world” connection and to find their future professions within that overall realm.
Caring, excellence, nurturing, tools (including virtual!) and bravery enable students to succeed in chemistry. It stimulates life-long excitement for the field. Hopefully, it stimulates a passion that grows into a profession. The greatest compliment a chemistry teacher can receive is when a student chooses to embrace some field of chemistry as their own vocation.
Letter of Support
RE: ACS Southwest Regional Award letter of support for Jo King
Dear 2020 Awards Committee,
Mrs. Jo King has taught chemistry for over 30 years and now teaches AP courses for Plano West Senior High. She has served and continues to serve the ACS at the school, local, regional and national levels. Mrs. King is proficient in Advanced Placement (AP) teaching chemistry and her pedagogical-content knowledge is superior. Her broad-based academic preparation includes studies in psychology, English, and religion in addition to her MS in chemistry documenting her dedication to being a lifelong learner, a vital model she imparts to her students and inspires them to always continue to learn.
International Level Service
• 2007: Co-program chair (with ACS DFW Schulz award winner Jane Smith), international ChemEd conference attracting over 650 participants to UNT.
National Level Service
- Team member with Jeff Hepburn, 2010 James Bryant Conant Award winner, traveled across the US promoting and exciting audiences (young and old) about the wonders of chemistry.
- ACS Co-Chair of the Pre-College Committee for the DivCHED since 2015.
- College Board: AP Chemistry Readers for ETS. (To receive this honor for multiple years, must have a proven record of AP classroom teaching success.)
- 2010: Co-chair High School Program, 21st ACS BCCE, attracting 1,300 participants from six continents.
- 2010: Received an ACS Hach Grant used to purchase needed classroom equipment so that her students can experience the latest technology.
- 2005: Lab assistant for the nationally-renown Flinn workshop held at the University of North Texas (UNT)
- Participated in activities in Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, and assisted the UNT Mean Green Chemistry Demo Team at a show in Denver for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).
- Presented numerous times at ACS National meetings.
State Level Service
- Member, Associated Chemistry Teachers of Texas (ACT2); treasurer 2009-2011.
- Develops curricula for several national and state organizations including the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
- Active in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's (THECB) Texas College and Career Readiness Initiative.
- Question writer for TExES (Texas Examinations of Educators Standards) that pre-service teachers must pass to become a certified teacher in Texas.
ACS Local-Section Level Service
- Panhandle Plains Local Section Chair (2011-2012) and Alternate Councilor.
School Level Service
- Plano West Science Fair Coordinator, 2020-present.
- AP Chemistry workshops since 1998.
- ACS ChemClub sponsor at Heritage High School.
Jo King gives to the ACS in numerous ways (see highlights) and is by far one of the most gifted educators I've ever had the privilege to work with. She is an excellent student of chemistry and a very gifted teacher! Her drive, initiative, work habits, character and performance all carry the highest level of distinction. In all honesty, I am unaware of any high school teacher in the Southwest Region that has performed at or above her level of success.
Please accept this letter as very strong support for the Southwest Regional Award for Excellence in High School Teaching.
Diana Mason, PhD, ACSF
University of North Texas
Letter of Recommendation
RE: ACS DFW Local Section Werner Schulz Award Nomination for Jo King
Dear Selection Committee,
It is with great pleasure that I write this letter of nomination for Mrs. Jo King. Mrs. King has taught chemistry for almost 30 years and now teaches Pre-AP and AP courses for Heritage High School in Frisco. What makes Jo unique and someone who emulates Werner Schulz is her dedication to the American Chemical Society at the national level. As a team member with Jeff Hepburn, 2010 James Bryant Conant Award winner, she has traveled across the US promoting and exciting audiences (young and old) about the wonders of chemistry, and as a result is the current ACS Co-Chair of the High School Committee for the Division of Chemical Education. While leaving in Amarillo until the death of her husband, she served as the Panhandle Plains Local Section Chair (2011-2012) and Alternate Councilor. Also, on the national level, she is one of the College Board's elite AP Chemistry Readers for ETS. To receive this honor for multiple years, you must have a proven record of AP classroom teaching success.
It is true that she has only taught in the DFW Local Section area for one year, but her ties to this area have a proven track record. In 2005 she served as a lab assistant for the nationally renown Flinn workshop held at the University of North Texas (UNT) and was the co-program chair (with Schulz award winner Jane Smith) in 2007 for the international ChemEd conference that attracted over 650 participants to UNT. In 2010 she received her MS in ChemEd from UNT under my direction. Her research was one of the first of its kind to systematically review the level of effect that doing homework actually has on student performance. This study is reflective of her commitment to excellence in the classroom. Also in 2010, at the 21st ACS BCCE, which attracted 1,300 participants from six continents, she was co-chair of the high school program. She has participated in activities in Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, and she also assisted the UNT Mean Green Chemistry Demo Team at a show in Denver for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).
Mrs. King is a Renaissance woman. She is quite proficient in teaching chemistry and her pedagogical content knowledge is superior. Her broad-based academic preparation including studies in psychology, English, and religion in addition to chemistry makes her without a doubt a lifelong learner, a vital model that she is able to impart to her students to inspire them to always continue to learn. Her depth of knowledge of what is considered disparate spheres is also another reason that her unique skills are frequently called upon to write questions and develop curricula for several national and state organizations including the Texas Education Agency (TExES).
I have seen her teach in Amarillo – a marvelous experience. She has a wonderful rapport with her students and they are very responsive to her engaging activities. As a Dual Credit teacher, Mrs. King always challenged her students. At the end of a semester, her students were given the same exam as the college-enrolled students and her students always outperform those enrolled as typical college students. Jo's school activities serve to document her ability to challenge and inspire students. Currently, she is the ACS ChemClub sponsor at Heritage High School.
She has presented numerous times at ACS National meetings. At the state level, she is an active member of the Associated Chemistry Teachers of Texas (ACT2) and was treasurer from 2009-2011. Jo has also been active in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's Texas College and Career Readiness Initiative and numerous other professional development activities. Mrs. King received an ACS Hach Grant in 2010 that she used to purchased needed classroom equipment so that her students can experience the latest technology. She not only participants in professional development activities but more times than not she leads them whether locally or nationally.
Jo King is by far one of the most gifted educators that I've ever had the privilege to work with. She is an excellent student of chemistry and a very gifted teacher! Her drive, initiative, work habits, character and performance all carry the highest level of distinction. In all honesty I am unaware of any high school teacher in the Southwest Region that has performed at her level.
Diana Mason, PhD, FACS
University of North Texas