For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. I originally wanted to teach kindergarten but as I grew older, discovered my passion for math and science, and had amazingly influential teachers, I decided I wanted to teach high school. It was my high school chemistry teacher that helped me decide to pursue a B.S. of Secondary Education with concentrations in chemistry and math at Wayne State University. There I continued to discover my love of chemistry and education. I spent two semesters as a peer mentor for organic chemistry. As I worked with students in class and during my office hours, my dream of wanting to teach was confirmed. It is that “ah-ha” moment of learning that I love about teaching; the satisfaction that comes with helping a student form a new connection that allows everything to make sense. It was also during that time that I learned about Alchemie and met Julia Winter. Little did I know, my first encounter with Julia would influence a shift in my lifelong dream.
Julia came to our first peer mentor meeting of the semester to demo one of Alchemie’s apps. I was very impressed and decided to try my first attempt at networking. I went up to her, introduced myself and asked for her contact information so I could stay up to date and use Alchemie’s latest products once I got a classroom of my own. She replied with, “What are you doing this summer? We are looking for an intern.”
That semester turned out to be the busiest yet, thus finding an additional job for the summer, on top of taking classes, was the last thing on my mind. But Julia was persistent in having me work for her. Once classes ended that semester, I was able to find time to work at Alchemie as the Content Intern throughout the summer. As I developed the content for Mechanisms, I found so much joy in designing a tool that I wish I had when I took organic chemistry and knowing that it would help so many students for years to come. I was indirectly teaching thousands of students and found as much satisfaction as I did while peer mentoring.
My work at Alchemie was put on hold as I entered my last year at Wayne State and started student teaching. I finally got to that point where my lifelong dream of becoming a high school chemistry teacher was coming to fruition! Unfortunately, that excitement was rather short lived as I realized how difficult teaching actually is, or at least the classroom management aspect of it. I found myself missing the work I was doing at Alchemie. Then, halfway through that year, Julia reached out to me with a job posting. The excitement brought on by that message made me realize that my dream had shifted from teaching 30 students at a time in a high school classroom to teaching thousands through educational technology. It took me a couple of days to get over the fear of committing to a “big girl job” but I applied for the Customer Success Specialist position and happily started my job the Monday after graduation.
It was not necessarily easy to come to the realization that the job I had dreamed about my whole life may not be the right job for me, or at least not at this time, but the excitement of working for Alchemie made the transition a lot easier. Although I don’t get to hear each student’s “ah-ha” moment as they use Mechanisms, I know I am helping to produce so many more than I would if I were teaching 30 students in a classroom. And I may not be known to the users of Mechanisms as an amazingly influential teacher like the many I had, but I know for thousands of students I am making organic chemistry more enjoyable. For those reasons, I am so thankful for Julia and Alchemie for helping me realize that it is okay for lifelong dreams to change.
Portrait of Gianna by Liz Gross