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Virginia Journal of Education

Ten Minutes with…Kevin Hanna

  Science Department chairman/teacher at Covington High School
Local Assn.:   Covington Education Association    
Years worked in education:  37

What is a typical school day like for you?
Our school is on a 7-period day, Monday through Friday. The day begins at 7:45 a.m., the start of the contract day, and we have a remediation period from 8-8:30, during which students who have not mastered the Standards of Learning for our classes receive specialized instruction. I teach anatomy and physiology first period, physical science third and fourth periods, and chemistry fifth and seventh periods. My planning periods are second and sixth.

What do you like about your job?
I enjoy helping students reach their full potential in the fields of scientific study that I teach. I’ve had a love of science since at least eighth grade, and I had great teachers in school and college who enriched this love. I try to honor them by nurturing in my students a love, or at least an interest, in science. Also, I like the new instructional techniques that technologies have brought to teaching. Gone are the days of measuring velocity with carbon paper and recording timers, and verifying Boyle’s Law with books piled on top of syringes. Electronic data-gathering has made experimental results much more reliable and precise. Learning how to best use new technologies and infusing them in instruction keep everyone engaged, and working as a teacher enables me to keep up with advances in science. Also, I enjoy working with my colleagues. We have a great faculty and administration. We have diverse interests, and discussions in the hall, faculty lounge and work room are varied and enjoyable. Most of all, I like the “eureka” moment of finding a technique to make a topic clear to a student. It’s very rewarding to see a student finally learn something they’ve been struggling with for a long time.

What is hard about your job?
The paperwork associated with verifying student progress on the SOLs is very hard and time-consuming. Planning activities that cover topics in a different way for remediation is hard. Thinking of instructional techniques that will capture the interest of students raised in the current digital age is difficult, especially for those of us who grew up doing calculations on slide-rules. Being consistent in grading science fair projects is also very hard. Although our school system has worked wonders with the funds available, teaching with only a classroom set of textbooks and a lack of some other instructional materials has proved difficult.

What are some of the most fun and unusual things that have happened on the job?
You can’t teach lab sciences without interesting things happening. Lighting Bunsen burners produces the occasional burned hair and balls of flame. The hydrogen “bark” (sound produced when hydrogen gas explodes in a test tube) often yields shrieks of joy from the students. Once a lab group engulfed their crucible in a reducing flame and actually boiled magnesium. When they took the cover off, the vapor reacted with oxygen in the air and produced a material like cotton candy. A girl with puffy sleeves on her shirt was wiping out much of our glassware until we tied up her sleeves with rubber bands. One event that was scary was an inquisitive student in a lab next door who got her finger stuck in a hole in a lab table: It took an entire period of using ice, soap and oil, and tugging and pulling to free her. We were very worried, but once she was free, we all had a great laugh. Now all the holes are plugged with corks, and the student serves as a model in lab safety discussions.

Once, when I asked if there were any questions before I handed out a test, one student said, “Oh rats!” All 20 of the other students, on cue, yelled, “Rats” and simultaneously jumped up on their desks. I was so amused that I almost postponed the test.

How has being an Association member been helpful to you?
The Association has been a partner in my professional growth, providing me with the opportunity to serve in leadership positions as a building representative, local president, delegate to the Representative Assembly and member of the Resolutions Committee. Through VEA publications and meetings, I have become a better teacher. I don’t think I’d be the professional I am now without the Association. Also, our Association fights for more funding and favorable legislation at all levels of government, and its legal protection and insurance have keep me protected and less worried as I teach a lab science. I wouldn’t enter a lab without such protection. All things considered, the Association has been a great help—all education employees should be members.



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