Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson’s student-run newspaper
Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Science teachers take on larger role to help fill gaps

In light of AP Chemistry teacher Lorena Alvear’s leave of absence, the science department scrambled to keep the course alive while creating minimal disruption for the students in the class. Ryanne Chitjian, chair of the science department, communicated and worked closely with the science teachers to figure out how to cover the two AP Chemistry sections.

“We knew that we needed to have [the course] continue, it wasn’t going to be an option to have it dissolve,” Chitjian said.

At first, Chitjian and the rest of the science department considered quickly finding a long-term substitute teacher to cover the classes. However, there was not enough time to do a full vetting process and find the right teacher to take on the role, so Chitjian looked within the department.

“[Mankoff] had not taught AP Chem in the past, but at her last school she was really closely collaborating with the teacher for their AP chem course and she also has the most chemistry experience out of the current teachers,” Chitjian said. “So, we knew that in terms of content, she would easily be able to teach the class.”

Mankoff received a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and multiple chemistry-related awards at Wellesley College. She also conducted chemistry research there in the Belisle Lab.

“I crossed my fingers and I said to her, ‘I know this is a big lift. We’re messing with your schedule like crazy, you’re gonna end up with a bunch of new students, and you’re the best fit for this role.’” Chitjian said.

Mankoff taught one section of freshman-year Physics and three sections of Chemistry in the first semester of this year.

“As a new teacher to Branson, I would say I felt busy but it was manageable.” Mankoff said. “Being a new person anywhere, there’s lots of new things to learn.”

By taking over the two sections of AP Chemistry, Mankoff saw an increase her workload.

“I really liked the stuff that the AP class was working on at that time, so I was like ‘if I have to do this for a little bit, I’d be happy to,’” Mankoff said.

While Mankoff picked up AP Chemistry, Chitjian took on her freshman physics section and science teacher Doug Wick took on one of her Chemistry sections.

“It’s a big lift and ask, and we’re working together to try and take anything we can off of their plates so they can maximize their time,” Jeff Symonds, Director of Studies, said. “Luckily, they’re high-level, super-dedicated teachers, so they’re up for it.”

Without access to Alvear’s course materials, Mankoff has been coordinating with the AP Chemistry students to pick up where they left off before winter break.

“It was an unexpected change but Jill is doing a great job,” AP Chemistry student Alexander Golden ‘24 said. “Her teaching style is a little different from Lore so everyone has had to adjust, but overall it’s been a pretty smooth transition.”

Chitjian is currently devising a plan to prepare the science department for potential events like this in the future, setting up a system that would make it accessible for another teacher to take over a class that is taught by one person with short notice.

“Honestly, because I work with such generous people, and because Branson students are so strong, it was not nearly as challenging to navigate as it could have been,” Symonds said.

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Hannah Hodges
Hannah Hodges, Games Editor