Chemistry teacher Robin Altman and senior Ryan Ho prepare for a sophomore chemistry lab. (Photo by Cissy Shi)

Chemistry teacher Robin Altman leaving after just one semester

Like the Defense against the Dark Arts professor in “Harry Potter,” the chemistry teacher is being replaced yet again.

In January former chemistry teacher Michael Covey, who had returned from retirement to teach for one semester, was replaced by Robin Altman.

And after the school year finishes, Altman will return to full-time research at UC Davis and perhaps teach college-level biology classes on the side.

“Teaching (at SCDS) this semester has been wonderful,” she said. “The overall experience has been so positive, and I’ve really had such an amazing time working with the students and faculty.”

According to Sue Nellis, head of high school, the school is still looking for someone to replace Altman, advertising with Carney Sandoe, a nationwide employment agency that specializes in independent school teachers, and Career Builders, which is focused more locally.

But the administration is not the only one preparing for the change.

Many sophomores considering taking AP Chemistry next year are very concerned.

By the time the new school year rolls around, the current sophomores will have experienced three different chemistry teachers in less than a year.

“I am worried about AP Chem next year because I have grown so accustomed to the teaching style of Altman and Covey,” sophomore Jagjit Lally said.

According to Lally, the transition between Covey and Altman was very smooth because of their hard work to create an identical style of teaching. However, he doubts the new teacher will do the same.

“The teacher that interviewed for the position had a different teaching style than our previous teachers, which discouraged me personally,” said Lally, who had his class taught by one of the candidates.

Sophomore Colby Conner agreed.

“It’s an AP class with a new teacher, so no one really knows how the class is going to be, including the teacher’s style, personality and expectations,” Conner said.

“This year has been challenging because part of learning is understanding someone’s teaching style.  Next year, chemistry will have yet another twist.”

Despite their worries, both Lally and Conner said they will take AP Chemistry next year.

Some students, however, are less worried about the change.

“Dr. Altman’s teaching style was straightforward, and I liked that she used visual aids to help us better understand the material,” said sophomore Jenny Kerbs, who is debating whether to take AP Chemistry or AP Physics next year.

“As for the new teacher, I am keeping in mind that all teachers have different teaching methods, and I’m sure that he or she will do a great job.”

“(The school) knows what it’s doing,” said sophomore Akilan Murugesan, who will also take AP Chemistry next year.

Covey, who returned to working in the school garden after a five-week trip to New Zealand, said that 80 percent of doing well in an AP class is a strong student and a good college textbook. The teacher is just there to facilitate the material, he said.

From his experience of teaching the AP Chemistry students after former teacher Alan Beamer left, Covey feels like the students will be able to hit their stride after a little bit of adjustment when the new chemistry teacher starts.

Either way, the school’s loss of yet another chemistry teacher is bittersweet for some.

When asked what he will miss about Altman, Lally responded “Everything!”

“(Altman) made Chemistry exciting, and was one of the reasons I went into AP Chemistry,” he said. “(She) will be greatly missed.”

Nellis agreed.

“Dr. Altman’s strong work ethic, her kind and calm approach to students, and her ability to help students understand a difficult subject are all qualities we will miss.”

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