Chemistry teacher Michael Covey sets off a combustion reaction in his hand. (Photo by Kamira Patel)

Chemistry prepares for teacher change from Michael Covey to Robin Altman

As students finish taking their finals, everything seems to calm down as the new semester promises a fresh start.

But for many sophomores and juniors, the start may be a little too fresh.

Chemistry teacher Michael Covey will be stepping down from his position to make way for Robin Altman as she takes over teaching both Chemistry and AP Chemistry.

Neither Covey nor Altman was available to teach the entire year.

For the past semester, Altman has been working with a professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at UC Davis in a postdoctoral scholar position, studying how atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and vascular dementia may be linked to the types of foods people eat.

Covey was enjoying retirement when the school asked him to teach.

“I was reluctant to give (up retirement) for longer than I needed to,” he said. “Since Dr. Altman was willing to teach for the second semester, it turned out that I did not need to teach for the entire year.”

Having met extensively over the summer to discuss teaching styles, both teachers said they believe that the switch will be pretty smooth.

“(Altman) taught a semester here, so a lot of the logistical understanding is already embedded,” Covey said.

“Now it’s about her getting to know the routines that we, the students and I, have developed so that she knows where the students are coming from. From there, she can make an informed decision on what to keep and what to change.”

Throughout the year, Covey has kept Altman updated on everything in class, relaying to her the methods that he has used to approach different topics.

“Dr. Covey has been wonderful about keeping me apprised, and I’ve tried my best to learn how the classroom has been working this year so I can stick closely to these methods and hopefully not rock the boat too much!” Altman said.

Altman has been coming in to observe classes since Jan. 6 to prepare for the switch.

After the semester ends and Altman takes over, Covey will still be available for a couple weeks for consultation and questions if any students need it. Covey will then return to his work in the school’s garden.

Some students are nervous about the changes it will bring to the classroom, especially in AP Chemistry, who had to first switch from former teacher Alan Beamer’s methods to Covey’s.

“I’m most afraid of the change because we don’t want to completely switch our style of learning,” junior Jaspreet Gill said. “Once in a year is more than enough.”

“For Covey, we read the book before we come to class,” junior Chien Ho said. “He uses the book a lot more, which is some- thing Mr. Beamer didn’t really do.”

Junior Melissa Vasquez agreed that another switch might prove challenging.

“I spent half a year getting used to Dr. Covey’s tests, and now I have to get used to Dr. Altman’s,” she said.

“I’m sure that (Altman will be) pretty prepared. Country Day does a pretty good job in general getting good teachers. It will just be hard for us to get accustomed to her and accustomed to the new style of teaching.”

However, other students aren’t as concerned with the change, especially the sophomores.

Having Covey for regular chemistry, the sophomores haven’t experienced two different teaching styles for the same subject as the juniors have.

According to sophomore Akilan Murugesan, both Covey and Altman assured them on Orientation Day that their tests will be consistent.

“I’m sure their teaching styles will be a little different, but their tests should stay the same,” Murugesan said. “I’m sure it will be fine.

“Preferably it would be nice to have one teacher stay for the entire year, and Dr. Covey is really fun.”

Sophomore Emma Belliveau also likes Covey’s teaching style, saying that he makes everything very straightforward, and his tests aren’t hard if one knows the material.

“I’m still a little nervous,” she said.

Yet Altman has confidence that the students will be able to handle the change.

“I have the utmost respect for Country Day students,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to be working with such a mature and talented group, and I am sure they will handle the transition gracefully.”

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