Chemistry teacher gets kids fired up
Roxie Allen knew teaching was for her when she was a graduate student interning as a lab tech at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“I joke that I was in a little sterile room with these little sterile cells and they didn't talk to me,” said Allen, who lives in Cole's Crossing in Cypress. “I always loved it from the first day I did it. I connected with the kids.”
Allen has been teaching since 1985 and, since 1990, has taught at the Upper School in St. John's School, where she's recently added the James Bryant Conant Award to a roster of other top honors earned over the years. The national award is for those who make contributions of major significance to chemistry.
Allen also has been the recipient of the ACS Greater Houston Section Thomas Aczel Award for Excellence in Chemical Education in 2001 and the ACS Southwest Regional Excellence in High School Chemistry Teaching award in 2008, among others.
“I was always a science buff,” Allen said, adding that she comes from a family that includes many teachers. But besides the requisite microscope and chemistry set, she also had a horse during her childhood that required a lot of time outdoors.
St. John's has a challenging curriculum, and Allen helps her students meet the challenge by incorporating their ideas for experiments from YouTube and other Internet sites. She's also been known to do some unconventional demonstrations – such as setting her hands on fire.
But it's certainly not all fun and games at St. John's, where her students complete a curriculum in one year that other schools cover in two.
Allen also has been a mentor for the national Chemistry Olympics, what she called “the most significant professional experience I had.”
“They were so smart,” she said of the students. “In a week, they knew more chemistry than I would know in my life.”
Ironically, Allen said she found chemistry to be a challenging subject in school. She credits her drive and intellect, and being around intelligent girls her own age.
“You hang around smart people, you get smarter, I guess,” Allen said.
Roxana “Roxie” Allen
Community Connection: Recipient of the James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching by the American Chemical Society.
Fast Fact: Allen describes herself as a “volunteeraholic” who works with the Boy Scouts and is a small-group leader at her church.
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