This post written by Kirt Shineman.
A chemical change is a central theme of Chemistry which has itself been called the central science. Getting taller is a change. Growing stronger is a change. Dr. Debbie Leedy (at GCC 2005 – present) who splits her time between being the department chair (2012 – current) and teaching Chem 152 (plus the lab) General Chemistry Two, understands change. During the last few years she experienced a great deal of change, yet she found the changes made her a better faculty member. She teaches students how to see and interpret change and identify how chemical changes occur. Some changes may be caused by heating or cooling, and some can be reversed. No, she can’t make me thinner or younger, but she can teach me why my toast burned or why I gained weight. More than that, Dr. Leedy changes lives as she educates students about chemical change, or what she calls “delta.” Visit one of her classes, and you’re bound to see graphs. But underneath the charts, she increases students’ conceptual learning, critical thinking, and scientific reasoning, changing how they see and understand the world.
Debbie epitomizes the very nature of chemistry as my first lesson in the field with MRS GREN. She is all about Movement and Respiration. Whether swimming, rock climbing, running, doing a triathlon, or hiking, she enjoys moving (a type of change) from one state to another. All that movement needs respiration (and perspiration). Respiration comes easy to her. In our interview, she revealed her secret to staying grounded: solid breath control. As a flute player, she learned to support her breath to produce a good sound. The same skill helps her stay healthy. Debbie is Sensitive. She makes each student feel they can succeed. Watch her teach. She moves around the classroom, approaching each student with a Growth mindset. She helps students visualize chemistry through perfectly selected technology to Reproduce the change in a mathematical expression. She allows students to eliminate old thoughts and discover new thoughts, a form of Excretion and Nutrition (MRS GREN).
For students, change induces panic. Not so for Dr. Leedy. When Debbie came to GCC, she never saw herself as a leader, but then she found a way to mentor students and other faculty. Helping others change is like rock climbing. As we pull ourselves up, we reach, we grab hold, and we look at those who climb with us. Then we panic. She says that after the moment of panic, she sees where she is, how far she’s come, and how she is progressing, and, with that, she finds courage and moves up the rock. Her favorite place to rock climb is Jack’s Canyon. But she’s no daredevil (although she went to Arizona State University, she is a “horn frog” from Texas Christian University). She’s fallen from rocks. The ropes were in place, and she was saved and tried again. When asked whom she looks to for support, she said, “My whole department keeps me connected and helps push me to the next height.” They are her anchors and her ropes. Her department gives her the momentum to climb to greater heights. Although she stopped rock climbing after she tore her ACL in a bouldering accident, she finds it represents how she works through change. She added, two weeks after her accident, she ran a triathlon. She doesn’t sit still well.
Growth is as vital to Debbie as heat is to chemicals. She enjoys expanding by solving puzzles. Instead of sitting down and pouring sweat over a pad of paper, she finds movement leads to solutions. While she runs she ponders complex questions. Who are the right faculty to mentor these new students? How do we build a better college schedule for our students? When should we offer CHM152? When she finishes her run, she’s not out of breath like I would be; she crosses the finish line with solutions. Through her solutions, she grows and sustains change.
Chemistry is a complicated science to motivate students. She finds what students want to do and where they want to be and is honest with them. We may all want to become something and change our direction along the pathway. Debbie knows how to make those subtle adjustments to change the direction of a student’s growth. Students cherish Dr. Leedy’s advice and honest support over the years. We are lucky to have such an excellent faculty member at GCC.