Teacher Derrick Wood Wins James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching


By Matthew Fan, Staff Reporter

Derrick Wood, a chemistry teacher at Conestoga High School, recently received the James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching. This award is given out by the American Chemical Society (ACS), the largest chemistry organization in the world.

Before winning this award, Wood won the ACS Philadelphia Region Award for Excellence in Pre-College Science Teaching in 2013 and the ACS Mid-Atlantic Region Award for Excellence in Pre-College Chemistry Teaching in 2015. Having won the Mid-Atlantic Award, Wood was nominated for the national award.

“This was the third (and final) year of my nomination cycle, so I’m shocked, and I feel really blessed that I finally got chosen for this because there’s no other award that specifically calls out high school chemistry teaching like this,” Wood said.

Wood had previously won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math & Science Teaching in 2015.

When “I won the Presidential Award, that was certainly a real process in getting to meet President Obama,” Wood said. “I got to meet a lot of really neat teachers from all different types of disciplines in math and science, and that sort of recognition, that’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Though he was certainly honored to receive the Presidential Award, Wood finds the James Bryant Conant Award to be more unique.

“It’s one math and one science teacher from every state for the Presidential Award,” Wood said. “(The James Bryant Conant Award) is one award for the whole country, so it feels really neat to be called out as the singlet.”

Wood thinks his effort to constantly innovate the way he teaches is a major reason for why he won the award.

 “I pull in a lot of stuff from higher levels, like the lab equipment that we (use) for the HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) lab,” Wood said. “That’s not typically done in the high school setting, namely because teachers either don’t have access to equipment or they don’t have the expertise to do that.”

He believes his passion for science and education has been his “secret to success.” This passion is apparent in the way Wood teaches, from the songs he sings to the engineering labs that he has students complete.

Having won this award, Wood wishes to work more closely with other teachers. He plans on staying in the district, but at the same time, he will explore other teaching opportunities.

“I do see myself wanting to invest more in other teachers, so things like student teaching experiences or maybe eventually teaching courses in higher education,” Wood said. “But my passion is for the classroom.”

Matthew Fan can be reached at [email protected]