by Kiran Bogusky ’26
Chemistry is the way science explains the material world. It shows us what glues the most basic constituents of everything together. And yet the study of chemistry is so deep and complex, that it is difficult to sum up in two semesters. And yet, here at Bellarmine, our teachers have managed to do it. This year, the chemistry department is getting new faces and opinions.
To help us understand these new changes, we interviewed Mr. Winter, a new and promising chemistry teacher, about himself, his relation to chemistry, and his opinions about Bellarmine.
Q: Before you came to Bellarmine, what was your last school like?
A: My last school I worked at was called Pacific Collegiate School. It was in Santa Cruz. And it was a public charter school. It was really small, I was the only chemistry teacher there. Which had its ups and downs. I was able to teach the things that I wanted to teach. and felt was important for students, but I didn’t really have anyone else to collaborate with. So I really had to come up with everything on my own. So really small in terms of sports and activities. We had a really great band choir and performing arts, so they did a show every year. Required like and choir and band did like a holiday concert. But we didn’t have a football team. I really enjoy watching football. We did have a pretty decent mascot ball team, so I went to a few basketball games. No baseball, stuff like that, so it was small, really small.
Q: And how did you hear about Bellarmine?
A: Yes. So, it’s a little bit of a long story. My wife was a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz. And last spring she finished; she got her PhD. So she’s studying reptiles, and climate change, and how that’s affecting the livelihood of reptiles. And so my wife and I have family in the East Bay in Sacramento. In Sacramento. Santa Cruz was just a little bit too far away from our families. So I told my school last December that it was going to be my last year working for them and the person that applied for my job. Who was awesome. I met Mrs. Janisse, who was the former chemistry teacher here. And I asked her, “so does that mean that her last job was going to be hiring and looking for a teacher?” And she said, Yep, and I applied, and I got the job. So it’s kind of funny. We did a flip-flop. She’s teaching at my old school and I’m teaching here.
Q: What is it like to start teaching at Bellarmine?
A: It is awesome. At first, I was a little scared of teaching all boys. I didn’t know what to expect to be perfectly honest. Sometimes teaching at an all-boys school has some sort of connotation, and none of those stereotypes have been true. You guys are incredibly respectful and kind, I felt very welcomed here. Which is great! I’m so grateful for that. So, thank you, and thank you for anyone who’s reading this. The environment is friendly to everyone, not just me. It’s very fast paced. So I feel like I have to cover a lot of material and much less time. But I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but I actually kind of like the schedule. The rotating keeps everything fresh. Keeps you on your toes. Because it keeps everyone fresh.
Q: What advantages does the rotating schedule bring?
A: Yeah, somedays I like to start my classes a little bit early, so I have a lot more time to prepare stuff. And sometimes, my classes end a little bit early. So I kind of go sit in-grade and have like a relaxing afternoon. I’m a morning person. I usually get here at like 6:30 or 7:00. Yeah, it’s just, I work much better that way.
Q: Is there a specific experience that you can point to where you really felt that there was a large Bellarmine spirit?
A: There’s so many things. The first mass that we had was really cool. Just seeing everyone there and everyone just actually being there. I know that like assemblies, and masses, aren’t always like everyone’s favorite thing. I totally appreciate that. But watching you know, 1500ish, 1600 young men just like sitting there and actually respecting, and listening as best as they could, was really cool. I have chaperoned a football game and the dance on Friday. And just watching everyone interact with each other. And every morning when you guys hear the announcements, and the speaker gets says go bells, everyone says go bells, and that’s cool! I love it. Yeah, the Spirit is here for sure.
Q: That is a unique tradition, the repetition of “Go Bells.” What other unique traditions are you excited about?
A: Nothing that’s standing out. I’m so excited to be at a high school that has some normal high school traditions. My last school being small. Once again, I want to reiterate, like, awesome school, and I do miss it, and it has its own cultural and spirit driven things. It was small, though. And so I can almost guarantee you, that if you asked some of the students like what their mascot was, they wouldn’t be able to answer it. And not that it’s a sad thing. It’s just that it’s like that was a different thing. It wasn’t what they thought was important to them. Whereas here it’s like, like we’re the Bellarmine Bells. I don’t know, it’s exciting! So yeah, nothing too ,like, I am surprised that you guys do this, but I’m just happy that we do those things and, that’s part of the reason I got into teaching high school, was to be a part of the high school culture.
Q: Do you feel like you’re getting involved in the Bellarmine community?
A: Totally! Yeah, that’s why I’ve been doing the announcements every week because I want to see, what events are coming up. Right now it seems like it’s just football. I know there’s some water polo games, but I want to go to like a couple of those games. I want to see what they’re like. I know that the musical is going to be some time in this fall. So I’ll definitely go check that out. I love going to band events. I love going to school events.
Q: What’s your favorite part of teaching chemistry?
A: I love teaching chemistry because everything in this class relates to the real world. Everything we can touch and see is made of matter just about and so real. It’s easy to get students to buy into the subject. And I know it’s hard subject, this is a very hard class, but students are really excited about being in this class. Because I think it answers a lot of questions that they probably have going into about the world.
Q: How do you feel students should pick between Chemistry AP, Honors, or College Prep?
A: So for students, I think there’s a pretty obvious progression there, in terms of like difficulty, amount of material, right. General Chemistry covers less and less rigor than honors, and then that covers less and less, than AP. It’s funny, I’ve taught AP Chemistry and General Chemistry, both as a tutor and as a teacher for more than a decade. For a long time. And I’m young, I’m a young guy, but I’ve been doing it, for a while. It was what I did in college to make some extra money and stuff like that. And I’ve never really taught Honors Chem. But what’s funny is that like I’ve taught AP and General, so it’s, so I’m doing a lot more planning this year for Honors Chem a lot more thinking about like, what does it mean to be in an Honors Chemistry class? What parts do I want to bring out, and kind of dive into further from General Chemistry, and what parts from AP did not want to include? So yeah, that’s kind of I think, like how I view the different levels of chemistry.
Q: I also want to ask, How do you feel, like you said, you’ve been teaching AP Chemistry for 10 years regular chemistry. How do you feel like your style, or your personal ability of teaching has grown and evolved to be where it is today?
A: When I first started teaching, it was just more like, this is how you solve this problem, right? Like, like check off the boxes. And I think that’s a valid place to start Like, students need to do certain things in order to understand things. So I started there. And then when I got my own classroom five years ago, I got my teaching credential and started teaching at the last Charter School. I really wanted to start and see like okay, like, if I have the students finish this year, you know, you guys are going to be contributing to society and community someday. So what things do I find valuable in this class that are going to make you good, scientific citizens? You know what I mean? Yeah, so, a really fine way of trying to teach students how to think critically, and somewhat skeptically. Being a healthy skeptic or having healthy skepticism, is an important thing for all scientists, and also humans to have. There’s so many times where I’ll read like a news article headline and go, Oh, that’s fascinating! Wait, does that actually mean what I think it means? So I try to incorporate a lot of that into my class. Yeah. And then I always like to try to do a lot of laboratories and experiments to give you more real world skills.
Q: Are you, so far, involved in any clubs?
A: Even though I told myself I wouldn’t be, I am doing chemistry Olympiad. They are just going to be utilizing my room and I’m going to be going here to help them with some of the chemistry, but it’ll be the same time as some of my other community times.
Q: Over the period of your time here at Bellarmine. Do you feel like you want to get more involved in clubs, or keep the same?
A: This first year is more just like getting used to everything. But my game plan is to definitely to do so. Like, my last school, I was chess club moderator. I was the pre-med club moderator. I always chaperoned Model UN, UC Berkeley, I drove trucks for choir and band. I love getting more involved as my load in the classroom becomes more obvious. Me, I’m still trying to figure out what my classroom looks like. And so once I get that down, I’ll start the transition time.
Q: If there was one thing you would say to the Bellarmine community, what would you say?
A: I thank you for being so kind and continue being kind. That is the biggest message I’ve gotten. I feel very visible, very welcomed. Just keep being kind everyone, and go Bells!
This concludes our interview with Mr. Winter, an amazing new teacher here at Bellarmine. Mr. Winters teaches Chemistry, Chemistry Honors, and Chemistry AP. The Bell Online would like to extend a special welcome to him!