Teacher Talks: Hadda Ait Oukdim-Conte, Upper School Chemistry Teacher

After years of working as a chemical analyst, Hadda Ait Oukdim-Conte became a teacher, wanting to share her passion for science. In her fourteenth year of teaching, she is continuing to do just that.

"There’s no such thing as just chemistry. It relates to biology, physics, history—everyday life, really. It’s important for students to see those connections. You need to have an understanding of not only the foundation of chemistry, but also how it relates to our environment—your environment.

I think it's very important for students to have the opportunity to collaborate with each other because in life there are very few things that you do alone. In class when we conduct experiments, students work with lab partners; they also present and teach lessons to their peers.  

Every summer I do research at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research. Last summer I went back to do my own research project. There are so many exciting things happening in the world of science, and it's really wonderful to be able to bring that back to class.

Inspired by my passion for research, I developed a course called Experimental Design, in which students design and conduct their own scientific research projects based on a personal area of interest. Student-centered learning is something I deeply appreciate about Calhoun. 

If you see yourself as a science person, you are. There is nobody who can tell you otherwise. [I want] to stimulate that curiosity, and support and encourage students and say, 'You can do this. Just stay curious.'

Individualized learning means that every student can reach his or her own potential. I think the reason a teacher becomes a teacher is to support a student's own learning path. What I ultimately hope is that my students leave here curious, and that they keep asking questions and observing the world around them through that lens."

Teacher Talks is a series spotlighting the educators of Calhoun and their approach to progressive education.