Chemistry teacher has right stuff

Snohomish educator wrote national guide

By ERIC STEVICK

Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — His pocket calendar is dotted with speaking engagements from Anchorage to Phoenix and fellow high school chemistry teachers from across the nation now heed his advice.

He has helped write the national advanced placement chemistry test, a rigorous exam taken by thousands of the nation’s top students who receive college credit if they pass and the attention of admissions officers at prestigious universities.

Bill Bond is in his element teaching the science he loves behind and beyond the maraschino-cherry red door and brick-enclosed walls of Room S-105 at Snohomish High School.

Bond is also the primary author of the recently released third edition of the "Teachers Guide — AP Chemistry," the Bible for America’s high school instructors teaching college-level chemistry.

All of which is a little hard for the small-town teacher to comprehend. He is an instructor who prefers the traditional chalkboard to a shiny white board and uses terms like "doggone it" and "fiddly-diddle." He’ll pay for the donuts for the 6:30 a.m. lab each Wednesday unless someone shows up late. In that case, the tab for all 24 students falls on the tardy one the following week.

Bond, the son of a teacher, knows chemistry frightens the math-shy, develops deductive reasoning and makes many students "think in a way they have never thought before."

In short, it takes many students out of their comfort zone.

"Sometimes in science it’s okay to be confused for a while," he said. "I just love seeing the wheels turn. I love seeing how their minds work."

Bond, who has spent the past 22 years teaching science at SHS, never sought national prominence in his field.

His profession found him.

It happened over a sack lunch with fellow SHS science teachers on a late April morning in 1996. A consultant for the College Board, a nonprofit organization that prepares students for higher education, called that day to say she wanted Bond to join the test development committee for the advanced placement chemistry exam.

The reason, in part, was the success of his AP students: Roughly 85 to 90 percent pass the national exam each year. His program was being monitored.

Soon thereafter, Bond was flown to Princeton University where he sat across the table from top chemistry professors from UCLA, the University of Alberta and Brandeis University, along with a teacher from a Chicago suburb and another from the exclusive private school where media mogul Ted Turner graduated.

"Very humbling," Bond remembers thinking, marveling at the intelligence and teaching skills of his new colleagues.

It has been a whirlwind of work and opportunity since then.

In the past four years:

  • He has helped prepare the national AP chemistry curriculum and write the exam.

  • He has been published as a contributing writer in a national science magazine after assisting a University of Washington professor with research. The title: "Dynamic Surface Tension and Adhesion Detection for the Rapid Analysis of Surfactants in Flowing Aqueous Liquids."

  • He was one of six U.S. math and science teachers to receive the 1999 Siemens Award for educational excellence in a ceremony at Georgia Tech.

  • He wrote much of the AP chemistry teacher’s guide that was published last month. On the first page are three lines that read, "By William B. Bond, Snohomish High School, Snohomish, Washington."

    It is the second and third lines that please Bond the most.

    "That’s a reflection on my school district, on my state, on small towns in general but especially on public schools," he said.

    In some circles, Bond’s AP chemistry class is described as the toughest course on campus. Homework is due every day. Study groups often band together in the cafeteria and, more days than not, students trickle into Room S-105 after school to work on labs.

    For all his students’ labors, there is the understanding that Bond will be in their corner if they put forth the time and effort.

    Lexi Allen, an SHS senior, was reticent about taking AP chemistry last year. Her natural strengths lean toward the humanities rather than the sciences. At times, she said, it seemed like she lived in the chemistry classroom last year.

    "It taught me a lot about what I am capable of," Allen said. "Every day he would tell us we were bright and he loved to work with us and he would do everything he could to help us succeed. And he did."

    Casey Riffel, another SHS senior who took Bond’s class last year, compared observations about AP chemistry classes with other students at Stanford University, where he took courses last summer. Riffel discovered that students from other schools hadn’t done half the labs he had.

    Bond, who teaches three other chemistry classes and an astronomy course, doesn’t make a big deal about his achievements to his students. It doesn’t and shouldn’t matter to them, he said.

    It is a philosophy reflected on the front door of his classroom where one finds a quote from Calvin Coolidge: "No person was ever honored for what he received," it reads. "Honor has been the reward for what he gave."

    "I would like the kids to think of me not as a teacher who has received a bunch of awards," Bond said. "I would like for them to think of me as someone who has helped them learn."

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