Sometimes, one special teacher can have a major impact on a student’s future.
For Jennifer Hand, that teacher was Russ Miller, who taught science at Centerville High School and inspired her to pursue science in college.
“He let us explore and come to our own conclusions about things,” Hand says. “Rather than telling us how something was, he let us figure things out.”
Now Hand is in her eighth year teaching chemistry, physics and environmental science at CHS. Before that she taught at Moulton-Udell Community Schools and Wayne Community Schools.
Hand says teaching at her alma mater has many benefits.
“It’s been great,” she says. “I know a lot of the kids’ parents, and there are a few teachers still teaching that I had.”
When Hand graduated in 1993, she went to the University of Iowa with aspirations of going into medicine. But then she married a local farmer, Terry Hand, which limited her geographically, and they had two sons, Lucas and Connor.
She decided to pursue teaching as a more family-friendly career.
“I knew the medical field was definitely demanding,” she says. “I wanted to have a family and spend time with my family, and teaching school is a great way to do that. Science was an area that was in need, also.”
Hand says she thinks the growing number of female science teachers can be inspirational for students.
“When I first started, there were two other women science teachers,” she says. “It is great to have that influence on young girls. I don’t think it harms the boys to see female science teachers, and it shows girls that science is a field they can be interested in.”
She says one of her favorite things is seeing students’ reactions when an experiment goes well. She says they love experiments like burning methane bubbles, when they can even hold the bubbles momentarily as they burn.
Hand says the high school’s science facilities are much better than when she was a student. The Ruggles Science Center, which opened in 2005, allows her to have separate space for labs and classes.
“We definitely have a state-of-the-art facility now,” she says. “It’s unlike any other that I am aware of in our area.”