He had held jobs as a manager of a software company and a chemist and was searching for a change.
“I was looking at something that was more than what I had been doing,” Chris Kurtt says.
The answer: Teaching.
It came to him as he looked back on his life. He realized that those who had made a great impact on him were educators, and he wanted to do the same for young people.
He’s worked at Norwalk High School for the past five years, and teaches chemistry to 10th through 12th graders. His job has given him that something more he’s been looking for, including variety and the satisfaction of knowing that he’s helping others.
“I love what I do,” he says. “I enjoy working with high school students. They make me laugh every day. There’s something different every day.”
One of the unexpected, but welcome surprises Kurtt has experienced as a teacher has been the depth of the relationships he’s been able to establish with students. Forming those bonds are crucial to laying the foundation for teaching and engaging students, he says.
“I wasn’t prepared for the strength of the connections you make and the willingness of some of the students to open their lives to me,” Kurtt says.
While he’s honored that they’ve been able to confide in him, he’s also been surprised with their candor and the troubles they face.
“It’s been really eye opening, and heartbreaking, sometimes, too,” he says.
At times, they may just need someone to listen. In other cases, it’s a matter of noticing that a student’s academic performance isn’t really on, and asking what’s wrong.
In the classroom, engaging students begins with making that effort to get to know them, he says. Then, he tries not to go too heavily into facts, “but teaching them how to think and support claims with evidence — things that translate to many different careers, not just science.”
He enjoys the relationships with students as much as he does seeing them have that “a-ha!” moment in his classroom. Making those connections is “what keeps me coming to work and enjoying what I do every day,” he says.