Bear is currently working on her doctorate and hopes to become full-time faculty. (Kylie Corbett)
Every day, chemistry instructor Teresa Bear is quietly reminded why she began teaching when she steps into the familiar room where she was a student 18 years ago.
Without a doubt, Bear thought she would attend medical school later in her education, until she took her first chemistry class with instructor Curt McLendon at Saddleback College.
After Saddleback, Bear transferred to the University of California, Irvine, where she received a master’s degree in organic chemistry. As years passed, Bear discovered her developing passion for teaching.
In 2007, she came back to Saddleback to teach chemistry and coincidentally, is in the same room where she took her first chemistry class. Although Bear never believed she would have such a large impact on students, she was chosen as the part-time Professor of the Year, which is student driven.
“My goal coming into this was if I could do for one student what [instructors] McLendon and Jane Horleans did for me, it would be totally worth it,” Bear said. “I am very much invested in this college [and] am [beyond] honored because it’s student driven, and that really says a lot.”
Bear has not thought about teaching other educational levels because she loves the intellectual level in college and the community college student.
“For many different reasons, I get older students, younger students, and the socioeconomic demographics are all over the map,” Bear said. “I have students that have kids, first-time college students, returning students and I appreciate all [the] diversity because it [creates] a really neat group.”
With class sizes varying from 28 to 30 students opposed to a class of 500, Bear enjoys the smaller classes because she is able to individually help each student on a more personal level.
“I know my student’s names by the end of the week [and] have a personal relationship with each of them,” Bear said. “I learn their strengths and weaknesses and I can help them [when] they are struggling.”
Understanding the importance of helping every student in each of her classes, Bear acknowledges the fact that every student learns differently.
“The extra investment in students is worth it because it shows them that I care,” Bear said. “I was one of those students that didn’t know [where my life was headed] and because some instructors and professors chose to invest in me, it changed the course of my life.”
At the end of the day, Bear’s husband, who’s also a chemist, is her biggest fan.
“I have three small kids. He’s so supportive and [sometimes] he’ll stay home with the kids,” Bear said. “In my 10 years of teaching, I’ve missed one lecture.”
Although Bear expects a lot out of her students and sets the bar high, she gives them several ladders in order to achieve success.
“My true passion for teaching comes through with [my] students when they start to [understand] the [material],” Bear said.
As Bear’s former students go out into the world, she has now heard back from several of them, indicating how she has helped shape their path in life.
“Seeing these kids come back and [to find out] that I’ve been a part of their journey is amazing,” Bear said. “It’s [exciting] that what I’ve chosen to do with my life has helped theirs.”
Bear is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in education and hopes to become a full-time instructor at Saddleback in the future.