Don A. Kaufman

Don A. KaufmanSecondary Science Education

I particularly enjoyed my chemistry and physics classes as well as my science methods class. Since I commuted from my farm home, I wasn't able to participate in many social activities; I regret that
Teaching -- 2 years at the junior high level; one year of senior high chemistry; followed by 40 years of teaching college chemistry at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (after earning advanced degrees); as well as 14 summer sessions at UNL. Since retirement, I have continued my love of chemistry and teaching to tutor organic chemistry students at UNK and now at UNL.
I definitely learned that through hard work you can accomplish most anything. I arrived at the University as a graduate of a small high school that offered no chemistry, physics, or calculus; the only high school science that I had was general science and biology. Yet, I was able to do well in my classes at UNL, especially chemistry and physics, while graduating summa cum laude with the highest GPA in the graduating class of 1961.
I also learned the importance of teachers being excited about the classes they teach and the inclusion of relevant human interest stories. How much easier it was to study in those classes. I, particularly remember Prof. James Rutledge in my science methods class as being one of those teachers --- how could one not think science teaching would be the best profession ever. And there was Prof. Herbert Jackson in physics; he even required reading a biography (or autobiography) about noted physicists and submitting a book report at the time of each hour exam --- that was ten for the year. At the time it seemed excessive, but we learned about the human side of those scientists who discovered much of what we were studying in our texts. I would also mention Prof. Henry Baumgarten from whom I took my first organic chemistry class not knowing that organic would be my favorite class as a student and later as a teacher and still as a tutor.
I also remember those teachers who made a special effort to get to know more than your name; chemistry Prof John Demuth was one of those. He was so kind and caring about his students.
When I became a college prof. I tried to use much of what had been modeled to me at UNL. The content of my course syllabi was quite consistent in noting that it was my conviction that the number one attribute of a good teacher was to have high standards and then to do your very best to help them reach their potential. They and I were expected to work very hard and that which would make this possible was for all of us to enjoy our time together. Stories and colorful demonstrations were frequent. I also tried to have students know how much I cared for them and their success (like Prof. Demuth). Their first day assignment was to write a "Who Am I" paper where they were to tell me anything they wished along with a picture; those papers/pictures became my homework so that by the end of the first week I could call each student by name and know something about them. I learned just how much it meant to them. I tried to write a personal comment on every returned quiz/exam for 40 years -- sometimes praise, at other times a challenge to do better because I knew they could, or maybe it was that I saw that their younger sister/brother in high school had a super ball game, etc. 
I think it worked. My students always scored significantly higher than the national average on the required standardized exams; I expected that because I expected them to out work others because they were enjoying themselves (Prof. Rutledge). I believe it was primarily due to students' letters of support that I was selected as the Teacher of the Year when we were part of the state college system and later as the first recipient of the OTICA award (Outstanding Teacher of the Year) of the University of Nebraska system, as well as numerous campus teaching awards.
Work hard and enjoy your classes/activities. Your days at UNL are a privilege; use them well.
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