From science hater to science lover: SMS teacher works to impact students

From science hater to science lover: SMS teacher works to impact students

When Sandra Raichel was a child, she did not like science.

“It was hard and uninteresting,” Raichel said. “I think that if I had a teacher who was more excited about it and made it more interesting, I would have liked it better.”

It was not until college that her opinion on science changed because of the impact one professor had on her life.

“My love of science started in college. I had some really great professors and took some cool classes,” Raichel said. “One professor, in particular, led me to my love of biology.”

The more science classes she took, the more her passion grew for the subject. While studying to become a respiratory therapist, Raichel found a passion in biology.

“Although I am interested in all forms of science because science is what makes our world go round, my favorite is biological sciences. I enjoy going out in nature and studying animals and their habitats. My favorite class in college was field ecology, where we did water testing on rivers, lakes, creeks, etc. I loved seining for organisms found in the bodies of water.”

Raichel saw firsthand the impact a teacher can have on student’s life and switched her major from respiratory therapy to education.

“I think teaching as a career has always been in my mind. Even when I was respiratory school, I thought about eventually teaching it. I even did a college instructor internship when attending Indiana University Southeast,” Raichel said.

Not only did her professor impact her life, Raichel’s parents were strong supporters of education, especially as her mother. Raichel’s mother was a professor and dean at the University of Louisville.

“My parents have always been my biggest supporters. My mother always made it known how important school and our education was. She put herself through school to become at first an accountant, then a Certified Public Accountant, and finally a professor and a dean. She was always very proud of her accomplishments, particularly because she was a successful woman,” Raichel said. “I have always looked up to her for her contributions to society and the love and caring she shows to her family. She took that same passion into her classroom.”

After attending Indiana University in Bloomington and IUS in New Albany, Raichel earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and elementary and middle school teaching licenses with an endorsement in science. However, she did not go immediately to the classroom.

“When I was 21, I had a friend who worked at the Juvenile Detention Center in Clark County. I needed a job, so she got me one working there. I spent four years at JDC, eventually becoming a lead supervisor. I decided during those years that I wanted to work with elementary- or middle school-aged children,” Raichel said.

At the JDC, Raichel would have daily interactions with each child there, monitored phone calls and visitors, supervised all the times when the children were eating, had free time, and used common areas. She would see children as young as 9-years-old, but most of them were ages 11 to 17.

“You could only form limited relationships with these kids, we weren’t even able to tell them our last names. They would go through whole group counseling, and we would try to talk about their problems and ways to do better,” Raichel said.

After four years there, Raichel wanted to help students before they ended up at the JDC.

“At times, it was a very emotionally trying job. There were times when the workers received a lot of extreme verbal abuse from some kids, and there was actually a riot at one point when I was there,” Raichel said. “I felt that I was better suited to try to make a difference before kids ever got to that point, so I chose to go into teaching. I originally planned to work with elementary students, but middle school science kind of fell into my lap. Once I started teaching in middle school, I loved it.”

Though Raichel’s job at the JDC took a toll, she said her experience there does benefit her in the classroom.

“Obviously, the kids at school are not as rough around the edges, but I do think that I have a better understanding of what kids go through that no one knows about. I am able to be firm with my students, yet empathetic to things happening in their personal lives,” Raichel said.

For eight years after JDC, Raichel worked at another nearby school district, Greater Clark County Schools, before starting at Scottsburg Middle School this year. She also received her master’s degree and attended Indiana Wesleyan University for her master’s degree plus 30 credit hours.

“I am really enjoying this new adventure. I cannot think of one disadvantage to my decision to change school districts. I love my spacious classroom, smaller class sizes, and having more time to teach my students. Scottsburg Middle School is a great school, and I am proud to be a new member of this family,” Raichel said.

From the lessons Raichel learned as a student and as a lifelong learner, Raichel hopes to turn her students’ opinions on science to positive ones.

“Science can be a difficult subject. I hope that students have fun learning about science and that they learn the importance of science to our lives,” Raichel said. “I am proud when I turn ‘science haters’ into ‘science lovers.’”

The impact that teachers have on the lives of their students rings true in Raichel’s. In her classroom, Raichel works to leave the same impression onto a new generation of learners at SMS. At Scott County School District 2, Raichel’s story is our story. Your story matters. You matter.