Tracing the Steps to the Conant Award

Laura Slocum's award certificate

Highlighting the 2017 Awardee – Laura E. Slocum

The James Bryant Conant Award was established in 1965 and has had several sponsors. Most recently, Thermo Fisher Scientific sponsored the award from 2007 – 2016. The award is intended to recognize, encourage, and inspire outstanding teachers of high school chemistry. It is fitting that the Journal of Chemical Education and ChemEd X have established an endowment that will permanently fund the award. The award provides $5000 to the awardee along with travel to the award ceremony and a framed certificate. And, I think it is even more fitting that the 2017 Awardee, Laura Slocum, has a history with JCE as a precollege assistant editor from 2007 – 2011.

I had the opportunity to introduce Laura during the Chemistry Teacher Program at the ACS spring national meeting in San Francisco on April 2nd. This post contains some of the information I highlighted in that introduction. Laura received a framed certificate from the editor in chief of JCE, Dr. Norb Pienta. He also presented her with an early edition of a book written by James Bryant Conant himself. We had an opportunity to hear Laura speak as part of the program. She was also honored at a formal banquet on April 4th. The award citation included on the certificate Slocum received reads:

For inspiring students to learn the beauty of our molecular world and for contributions to chemistry education as a researcher, editor, and exemplary educator.

Although it is not necessary, many of the Conant awardees have previously been honored with a Regional Award. In 2006, the Division of Chemical Education endowed the Regional Award for Excellence in High School Teaching. Each of the ten Regions of the American Chemical Society solicits nominations for this award. Laura Slocum received the award in 2012 at the Central Regional Meeting. The winners receive $1000, an engraved plaque and travel expenses to the meeting where they are honored.

Patricia Mabrouk recently wrote a blog “Nominate Outstanding High School Chemistry Teachers”, for ChemEd X that offers advice for nominators and candidates that are completing the nomination materials for the Regional Award.1 Beyond the advice, the Mabrouk encourages members of the community to take action. If one follows the link to past Regional Award winners, they will find a number of empty spaces meaning that no one had received the award. The annual deadline for Regional Award nominations is April 1. Of course, this advice would also apply to the Conant Award and other teaching awards. The annual deadline for the Conant Award is November 1st.

Figure 1: Qualities of Conant Award Nominees

Search “Conant Award” on the website and you will see an outline of attributes that a potential candidate should demonstrate: Quality Teaching, Ability to Challenge & Inspire Students, Participates in Extracurricular Activities and Cutting-Edge Pedagogy (see figure 1). How do we relay all of these attributes to the committee that will choose the award winner? In Pam’s blog, you will find a document that she wrote about compiling a CV - a curriculum vitae. Higher Ed folks are more familiar with keeping a CV than many of us at the precollege level. This goes beyond your education and employment history that is part of your resume and provides a broader view of the candidate.

Slocum has been involved in many local, state and national organizations including the American Chemical Society, the National Science Teacher’s Association, National Mole Day Foundation, the Indiana Alliance of Chemistry Teachers, Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc., the American Modeling Teacher Association, the American Association of Chemistry Teachers and more. Just as this is not an all-inclusive list, it also does not do justice to the depth of her involvement in these organizations. Laura has done countless presentations, hosted symposiums, served as chair for ACS regional and national High School Days and Chaired the High School programming for more than one BCCE. She has received many awards for her dedicated work. Slocum was trained in Modeling Instruction in 2010 and now helps lead workshops introducing others to the pedagogy. She wrote a blog post for ChemEd X about using a timeline she created to post around her classroom as she follows the chronological order suggested by the supporting curriculum that many Modeling Instruction teachers use.2 When compiling a CV, you will record all of those types of details. It is definitely easier to keep a running list than to try to create one from memory later.

Figure 2: Images of posters Laura Slocum created for her classroom.

As I mentioned previously, Slocum has had a long history with JCE. Before she became a precollege assistant, she had published3 and also reviewed articles. Reviewing articles is a scholarly activity that should be included in your CV. It can help prepare you to submit your own work for publication. To become a reviewer for JCE, you should read Information for Reviewers on the JCE website. You can apply to review for ChemEd X by using our contact form.

I think you will agree that based on even the barest outline of Laura’s work listed here, we have plenty of evidence that she does demonstrate the attributes listed above. Every Conant Awardee has a unique story. I hope that by sharing some of Laura Slocum’s story, you will be inspired to not only nominate a colleague, but also add some chapters to your own story. Unfortunately, not every outstanding chemistry teacher will be honored with an award, but if we follow in the footsteps of those that have walked before us we can be proud of the effort.

Figure 3: Images of one of the footsteps from her Walking in the Footsteps poster set.

1. Nominate Outstanding High School Chemistry Teachers, Patricia Mabrouk, ChemEd X blog post published March 2017 (accessed 4/8/2016).

2. Walking in the Footsteps of Scientists Who Came Before Us, Laura Slocum, ChemEd X blog post published Sept. 2016 (accessed 4/8/2016).

3. “Online Chemistry Modules: Interaction and Effective Faculty Facilitation”, Theresa Julia Zielinski, Marcy Hamby Towns, and Laura E. Slocum, Journal of Chemical Education 2004 81 (7), 1058.