John Mackin

John Mackin is a chemistry teacher and the chair of the science department at a mid-western high school. He started his career as an industrial product development chemist. After 15 years he changed careers and became a high school chemistry teacher, and eventually became science department chair as well.

What you need to succeed in this field

  • Broad background in all aspects of chemistry
  • Confidence in your knowledge
  • Confidence enough to admit when you really don't know the answer
  • Enthusiasm
  • Creativity
  • Love of teenagers

As a teacher, John collaborates with other teachers to develop curriculum objectives, using state and national standards, guidelines from various national science organizations, and local input. The objectives are then used as a planning guide for daily lessons, along the continuum from teacher-centered (guided lectures and modeling) to student-centered (labs, projects, group inquiry). He also develops rubrics and tools to assess student learning, and works at developing a relationship with each of his students.

As department chair, John is responsible for guiding new teachers and for overseeing budgets, scheduling, and procuring supplies. He monitors spending, sets teachers' schedules for the next school year based on projected enrollment, and passes information between science teachers and department chairs or administrative personnel.

Career Path

John started his career as a B.S. chemist with an industrial product development job. He earned an M.S. at night, over 5 years. After 15 years in product development, John was ready for a major change. He was tired of traveling, and wanted to contribute more to society.

He realized he had enjoyed the mentoring aspects of his career, and decided to become a teacher. Since he had a master's degree in chemistry, he was able to obtain his teaching certification in only two semesters of evening classes and two full-time semesters, one of which was student teaching. He was hired as a chemistry teacher by the school at which he had done his student teaching.

John develops guided inquiry sheets, strategy-modeling approaches, skill building problem sets, laboratory activities and follow-up questions, project requirements, demonstration materials, and inquiry or experimental design labs. He includes technology such as PowerPoint presentations, laptop computers, and a flexible camera for zooming in on small scale materials. John also creates assessment rubrics such as small quizzes and cumulative tests and other tools to ensure that students have learned.

John's industrial and management experience gives him a different perspective from most teachers. He can more effectively talk to students about the uses of chemistry and how it impacts their lives. That experience also helps him see the big picture, and contribute beyond the classroom through assessment committees, vision committees, and data analysis used to help guide and direct students and programs.

"The greatest opportunity of teaching is in leaving a legacy of changed lives. Every time I interact with a student, I can positively (or negatively) influence their future. This may not be apparent today and I may never know what impact I have had, but I believe I make a difference."