Featured Alumna Ashley Smith, Class of 2015
At Emmanuel College, Ashley was a Chemistry major with a minor in Biology. Once she completed her undergraduate studies at Emmanuel, she attended the University of Pennsylvania to receive her Master of Science in Education, Secondary Education: Science. She currently works at Ridgefield High School as a Chemistry teacher, where she teaches College Prep, Honors and AP Chemistry.
When asked what convinced her to pursue her career as a Chemistry teacher, Ashley explained, “When I was a sophomore at Emmanuel, Dr. Gerdon gave me the opportunity to be a tutor for General Chemistry through the Academic Resource Center (ARC). As a tutor I quickly fell in love with teaching. I loved being able to help students and see their “ah-ha moment” when the concepts finally clicked.” As well as being a tutor in General Chemistry, she went on to become a tutor in Organic Chemistry and Physics, and she was also a lab instructional assistant (IA).
During her junior and senior year, Ashley became the leader of the science tutors for the ARC and was involved with training the new tutors. She also participated in Organic Chemistry research with Dr. Jaworek-Lopes during the school year and summer. For her research, she worked on the Green, Solvent-Less, Synthesis of Fluorescein using a Microwave Synthesizer.
Ashley talked about her research and how it also led her to go into teaching. She explained, “When I did research, my professor and I both quickly realized it wasn’t for me. We had a conversation one day where she expressed how she could tell I was not really interested in the research and how I should focus more on education. She helped me shift my research to developing inquiry activities for high school students and the two of us brought these activities to local Boston schools.”
When giving advice to Chemistry students, Ashley recommends, “Talk to your professors! They are all extremely friendly, helpful, and want to see their students succeed. One of the greatest things about Emmanuel is that because the class sizes are small, it is easy to become familiar and comfortable with your professors”. She also recommends, “Go to office hours! It will not only help you with your course work, but also help to develop a relationship between you and your professor.”
As a teacher, Ashley’s favorite activity to do in her classroom is an Atomic Theory Debate. This is where she has different groups of her students take on a role of a scientist that has contributed to the development of the model of an atom. The students have a debate as to why their discovery was the most significant, while also touching on the downfalls and limitations of their peers’ discoveries. She loves to see how passionate her students are and how they thoroughly research their topics to have a great debate.
Her favorite topic to teach in her classroom is how to predict chemical reactions. She teaches this topic by having students perform different dances as a demonstration of the various types of chemical reactions. For example, students have to act out a single displacement, synthesis and decomposition reaction.
Her parting advice to her students, as well as the students of Emmanuel who want to pursue a career in Chemistry, is to never give up! She encourages, “Stick with it and follow your passions! It may be difficult and seem overwhelming when comparing yourself to other students, but if you love it, you must trust your intelligence and abilities until you reach your goal!”
~Written by Amanda Castelluccio ’22
~Edited by Dr. Aren Gerdon. *Editor’s note: Amanda Castelluccio was taught by Ashley Smith when Amanda was in high school! Awesome connection!