While many quake at the thought of studying chemistry, several wary students who enroll in Anjali Bhattacharyya's classes complete their work eager to pursue careers in chemistry or related fields.
That sounds almost too good to be true. However, the letters, telephone calls, e-mails, evaluations and cards of appreciation from College of DuPage students that flow into her dean's office say otherwise.
"I think she is a wonderful teacher. I am taking all honors classes except this class and she is by far the best. If you really want to understand chemistry, then I recommend this class for everyone," writes one student of Bhattacharyya. "She is very thorough with her teachings and explains things very well," writes another.
So, how does she go about transforming her students?
"On the first day of class, I talk about how important chemistry is in their lives," Bhattacharyya said. "I tell them that no matter where they are going from here, everybody should take at least one or two chemistry classes. Most students have a fear of chemistry at first. So for the first couple of weeks, I try to make that fear go away. Then they become more interested."
When Bhattacharyya introduces concepts in her classes, she always relates them to everyday life and shows her students how they can use the concepts. For example, when Bhattacharyya teaches about acids and bases, she introduces the environmental issue of acid rain. When she discusses nuclear chemistry, she emphasizes the importance of radon testing in homes.
The student transformation continues: Bhattacharyya uses Socratic teaching methods to turn her classrooms into active laboratories where students discover science in context. She introduces questions and allows students to come up with the answers among themselves.
Nobody sleeps in her classes.
In addition to teaching, Bhattacharyya advises her students, showing them how to study effectively at home. She even shares some words of wisdom from her mother: "Whenever you think that you are done with your studies and are ready for a big test -- study a couple more hours."