Kayla Mehrtens
Kayla Mehrtens

Chemical Attraction

Kayla  Mehrtens

Class of 2021 ? Atlanta, George
When Kayla Mehrtens took a chemical principles class during her sophomore year with Aaron Amick, Associate Professor and Co-chair of the Department of Chemistry, she was only intending to fulfill a requirement for what was then a premedical track. Instead, the class helped her figure out precisely what she wanted to do—become a chemistry teacher.

 

“I never wanted to be a doctor. I was trying very hard make my mother happy,” Kayla says. “But we made a compromise, and my mom said it would be OK to switch my minor to secondary education as long as I had a science or math major. I was a little resistant to it at the time, but then I took chemistry and I said, ‘Well this is an easy choice, I love this.’ And the way Dr. Amick teaches happens to work really well with my learning style. It’s a fun time.”

Now a chemistry major with a minor in secondary education studies, Kayla hopes to be able to light a fire in middle and high school students—especially girls—about STEM and chemistry 

“Middle school would be great because middle school is when young girls tend to get turned away from science and STEM generally, so having a female science teacher could make a difference, maybe,” she says. “There’s a great need for chemistry teachers who actually have a degree in chemistry. It gives you a deeper understanding of the subject, so when students come to you with questions, you can answer them better. 

The summer after her sophomore year, Kayla studied as a Toll Summer Research Fellow, helping Amick with his work on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. She also traveled to Belize with two other students and Sara Clarke-Vivier, Assistant Professor of Education, to lead the science portion of lesson planning in a teacher workshop associated with Crooked Tree Museum and Cultural Heritage Center.

“I love interdisciplinary learning, so connecting this history-focused museum with science standards was very exciting for me,” Kayla says. “We observed classrooms, did the teacher workshop, and got to go to an archaeological dig site one day, and now I’m fascinated with archaeology as well.”

In the fall of her senior year, Kayla will teach fulltime at Queen Anne’s County High School, fulfilling the required practicum for her secondary education minor. It will also help fulfill her Senior Capstone Experience, which she says will combine chemistry and education. It hasn’t been easy juggling the major switch and maintaining her requirements, but Kayla says the faculty have helped make it work.

“For instance, with the summer research I was able to get credit for a class that I couldn’t fit into my schedule,” she says. “I have had such incredible interactions with the faculty. Dr. C-V [Clarke-Vivier] of course is incredible…Professor [Erin] Counihan [coordinator of secondary education] has been really great. She’s my adviser for education. Her classes are very tough but I love learning from her.” As a course mentor for chemistry Professor Anne Marteel-Parrish, Kayla says they have “incredible discussions about education, and she really works hard with me to help me develop skills that will help me as I become a teacher.”

 

Kayla's Four Year Plan

Year 1

Favorite Class EDU 305: Educational Psychology

“I was familiar with a lot of the psychology knowledge, but tying it into education and learning specifically was really great. I think it’s very important to understand how the brain works and how people’s psychology works to be an effective teacher. I just learned so much and was exposed to so much.”

Year 2

Learn by DoingUndergraduate Research

The summer after her sophomore year, Kayla studied as a Toll Summer Research Fellow, helping Chemistry Co-Chair and Associate Professor Aaron Amick with his work on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Year 3

Learn by DoingCrooked Tree Museum, Belize

Kayla traveled to Belize with two other students and Sara Clarke-Vivier, Assistant Professor of Education, to lead the science portion of lesson planning in a teacher workshop associated with Crooked Tree Museum and Cultural Heritage Center.  

Year 4

Looking Forward ToTeaching Full-time

In the fall of her senior year, Kayla will teach fulltime at Queen Anne’s County High School, fulfilling the required practicum for her secondary education minor. It will also help fulfill her Senior Capstone Experience, which she says will combine chemistry and education.