Doug De La Matter

Who Was I ? - Teaching Career


Beginning in 1973 (ouch!), I was a teacher of Chemistry, Physics and other science courses at Madawaska Valley D.H.S in Barry's Bay, Ontario, 300 km northeast of Toronto, attracted there by the chance to teach Chemistry and by the school’s class set of canoes. I never found a compelling answer to the question: Why leave?
Over the years, I wrote a weekly science column for the local newspaper, and published numerous articles in Chem 13 News and elsewhere. I served on the organizing committee for two Chem Ed conferences, and gave presentations on science teaching at
Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE)
Science Teachers of Ontario (STAO) conferences.
In my day job, I taught science courses at every level and grade (9-13) in the Ontario Secondary School system (with a few math and computer science courses thrown in), and read and commented on over 45 000 lab reports at night.

In 1996 I was the fortunate recipient of the Science Teacher's Association of Ontario's Irwin Talesnick Excellence In Science Teaching Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to the teaching of science.
In April 2001 I was presented with an Award of Excellence by the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Ottawa, recognizing a teacher who went above and beyond to make a difference in students' lives.
In June 2001, I finally "graduated" from High School and found truth in the rumour that life can be just as busy when you don't have a steady job! I was chosen to give the keynote address at the First Reg Friesen Memorial Lecture at the Toronto ChemEd Conference in August 2001. That fall, I worked with the folks at Nelson-Thompson Learning, reviewing and writing support materials for new high school Chemistry texts. In October, I presented a paper at the New Jersey State Science Teachers Convention and in November, I presented another at STAO 2001 in Toronto. A week later I went to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut to make chemistry look and sound like fun for two groups of elementary school students; about 400 students in all.
In February of 2002, I was a guest lecturer for the 47th Berzeliusdagarna at the University of Stockholm, a series of lectures for outstanding science students presented by the Swedish Chemical Society. I could not have done it without the help of my wonderful host, Christer Gruvberg. Tack så mycket, Christer! After a sidetrip to Spain to visit with a former student and her family, (and to England, and Germany), I made it back in time to assemble the questions for the Merck State Science Contest (Chemistry) held in May in New Jersey.

2002 also included presentations at the BCCE conference in Bellingham, Washington and at the STAO conference in Toronto.
After writing another Merck State Science Contest, and talking to students at Hudson H.S. in Quebec, I was happy to give a 90 minute presentation to 800 Science teachers for Flinn Scientific's Morning of Chemistry at the annual NSTA conference in Philadelphia in March 2003.
In the summer, I presented at three events during ChemEd '03 at Auburn U. in Auburn, AL, then went to Greeley, CO as a guest lecturer at a session of the Flinn Institute for High School Chemistry at UNCO. Here I enjoyed sharing the stage with Lee Merek, Jesse Berenstein and DeWayne Leineman.
October found me in the tropical (for a Canadian) climate of Houston, TX, where I presented a session and a banquet speech at the CAST conference, thanks to the hard work and hospitality of Roxie Allen. November brought another STAO conference and presentation of two more Scienceworks Electricity Workshops.
2004 began with a presentation at Westwood H.S. in Hudson, QC sponsored by the Organix Foundation and a Plenary Speaker talk at the Ottawa-Carleton Science Teachers' PA Day.
Another Chemistry Contest was written for the New Jersey State Science Day and the rest of the spring was spent technical writing about Magnetism for
Indigo Instruments.
This also led to a presentation at STAO 2004 that included various experiments and demonstrations involving neodymium magnets. (See the Physics link on the home page.) I also worked at refining experiments for a Swimming Pool Chemistry Kit for
Flinn Scientific
and made ongoing contributions to the STAO Virtual Library. In the autumn, I presented a talk to Renfrew County high school teachers on Teaching in Three Dimensions and contributed to a science teaching workshop. The STAO 2004 conference produced more ideas for the Virtual Library.... which led to more work!

2005 started with a full day PD workshop for the staff of Lester B. Pearson School Board at Westwood H.S. in Hudson, Quebec and yet another Chemistry contest authoring stint for the New Jersey State Science Day. Preparation for Chem Ed '05 led me to develop a talk on experiments using Canadian coins, and further refined my ideas about teaching three-dimensional learners.

2006 began as 2005 did, with a motivational presentation for students at Westwood H.S. and another Contest created for Merck State Science Day in New Jersey. I was appointed Chair of the STAO Virtual Library Committee and thus became a member of the STAO Board of Directors. In late spring, I was invited to Gotenborg University in Sweden to give a talk on 3-Dimensional Learning and visited Berlin to give a talk on Chemical Demonstrations to high school teachers in an outreach program of Rostock University. A pleasant side trip to visit my daughter, who was studying Early Baroque Music in London, and a stay with friends in Hoylake (site of the '06 British Open), meant my return home was just in time to bid goodbye to the annual blackfly season. Through the spring and summer, I had worked with Lew Brubacher writing an article, Enrich Your Classes with Canadian Coins which was published in the September '06
Chem 13 News
November brought another hectic visit to the annual STAO Conference where I helped present two workshops on Teaching Electricity and one session highlighting teacher-contributions to STAO's Virtual Library. 2007 began with preparations for a presentation of the STAO Scienceworks Workshop at the Faculty of Education at Queens University in Kingston. After a short rest, more consultation work showed up for the Merck New Jersey State Science Day Contests. Throughout the spring, lots of time was spent creating and assembling the pictures for Nature: Close-Up and Personal, my first solo photography exhibit in the South of 60 Gallery in Barry's Bay, which ran for the month of August. The Comments Book was so full of kind compliments that I applied to Algonquin Park Gallery for a reprise in 2008. Giclee pictures from the show were sold to visitors in Ontario and as far away as British Columbia. The summer was also filled with managing a Summer Project for STAO, which encompassed the review and posting of over 700 items to the Elementary section of the Virtual Library. Once again, November was busy with STAO business and co-presenting sessions of the Electricity Survival Guide Workshop at the annual Conference.

2008 also included a talk at the OCSB PD-day and two student-teacher workshops in Ottawa and another photo-show scheduled for August in the
Algonquin Park Visitor's Centre
This marked a shift in my direction. I realized that I had pretty well emptied my brain into the science education community and began to focus more on my hobby of photography and on local activites.

It was nice of Chem13 News to note that I was one of their top 40 contributors over the years and I attended the 2013 Chem-Ed conference at its original site at the University of Waterloo. This time I was there to take pictures of events at the kind invitation of Jean Hein.

I also did two of my more entertaining demos:
The Tonic Water Fountain
The BBQ Lighter Gun
After that, my activities have not involved formal education events, but have been more related to cameras, canoes and community issues.

Doug De La Matter
March 2022