Every year, for one night in June, it’s standing room only in the auditorium at Brick Township Memorial High School. During Science Night Out, Maria DeBruin’s Honors Chemistry and AP Chemistry students put on a show of exciting science demonstrations, then lead hands-on science activities at stations around the cafeteria. DeBruin, who conceived the event as a way to engage AP Chemistry students in the month between the AP exam in early May and the end of school, designed, markets and raises funds for the free community event, now an annual favorite with the small Jersey Shore town.
DeBruin pushes all her students to develop independent research skills and a strong work ethic. She uses a variety of effective instructional strategies to keep students engaged and on their toes, including direct instruction, cooperative grouping, and discovery- and inquiry- based instruction. DeBruin recognizes student achievement with “Chemist of the Week” awards; AP students work to be on her “A Team.” National Honor Society members recognize her at their induction ceremony every year as their most influential teacher, and many students credit experiences in her class for their decisions to pursue careers in science. Since DeBruin took over the school’s AP Chemistry program in 2013, 87% of her students have passed the exam with a score of 3 or higher; the program has also grown substantially, with extra sections added to accommodate all the students who want to study under Mrs. DeBruin.
Technology plays a large part in DeBruin’s classroom. She started video recording classes each day and posting them in Google Classroom for review and to keep students who miss class from falling behind; this has been so successful that others in the building are now following suit. Students have access to a laptop cart and use response clickers and TurningPoint for interactive polling. DeBruin spent five years as a chemist at a large pharmaceutical company before entering the classroom and brings real-world experience into her lessons; her extensive knowledge about lab equipment helped her convince the district to buy a spectrophotometer, which students now use regularly.
Always striving to improve her own and the school’s methodologies and outcomes, DeBruin presents research at schoolwide meetings, mentors incoming teachers, serves on the School Improvement Committee, has attended the College Board’s AP Teacher Summer Institute, and shares her curriculum and materials freely with colleagues. She advises the school’s Science Club and created the Fit Club to give non-athlete students a judgment-free environment in which to exercise and learn about healthy living.
DeBruin holds a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Hofstra University (2003) and earned a Master of Science in chemistry from Lehigh University in 2006. She received her teaching certificate in 2008 through Stockton College’s Alternate Route Program.