Liana Van Nostrand ‘16
The newest member of the chemistry faculty is Dr. Racquel DeCicco. She teaches three sections of tenth grade chemistry. If asked as a teenager if she wanted to be a chemistry teacher, the answer would have been “no.” Although studious, she “did not like chemistry in high school.” The chemistry faculty at Wagner College in New York, in combination with a chemical education research program, sparked her interest in teaching chemistry. During the research program she had the opportunity to develop and teach chemistry lesson plans to students in New Jersey. She also worked in an education center from her late high school years to the middle of her time in college.
This is not Dr. DeCicco’s first teaching job. She worked as a teacher’s assistant while attending Stonybrook University in pursuit of her graduate degree. By chance, she studied there at the same time as Dr. Chatterpaul, also a member of the BHSEC science department. Although he was a few years ahead of her, she says they did know each other and that their “laboratories were right next to each other!” Over the summer, besides the time she spent at Disney World during July 4th weekend, she taught General Chemistry I and II at Drew University. Although the content is similar, Dr. DeCicco observed some differences between her BHSEC students and her Drew students. Obviously, she notes that the BHSEC students are younger. However, with their youth she finds comes more enthusiasm as well as a tendency to be “chattier”. She likes that at BHSEC she gets to see her students daily.
Her first impressions about BHSEC are positive. She likes it and says, “I’m happy here.” She’s also very pleased with her department, which she feels been very welcoming, adding “you don’t find that everywhere.” One thing that surprised her about BHSEC, which will not come as a surprise to most students, is “how hard it is to get here.” Like many students, she commutes from Brooklyn. She also grew up in Brooklyn, in Bay Ridge. Unlike her previous positions, at BHSEC everyone is from the same place. She notes that “familiarity with the city is something that students and faculty can all relate to.”
When not grading assignments to classical music, she likes to cook and bake. One of her specialties is tiramisu. During the holiday season she makes caramel fudge bars. Unfortunately, although she really wants a dog she does not think she has the time to care for one. She notes that teachers “don’t have as much free time as you think we do. We put time into trying to make classes as effective and enjoyable as possible.”
Had it not been for the faculty at Wagner and her opportunities to work with younger students while she was a student, Dr. DeCicco would have never ended up at BHSEC. She would not be spending her free time grading, and she might even have a dog. However, she also would not be spending her days working in a field, that as a teenager, she never thought she would love. After becoming interested in chemistry, Dr. DeCicco took a message of open mindedness to heart. Her advice for students is “not to have preconceived notions about your classes.” In general, “don’t be afraid to take risks. In the end it’s worth it.”