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From the lab to the classroom

Roberta Naujok pursued her passion for teaching by becoming a science teacher at Hudson High School. She worked in a 3M for many years before that. Photo courtesy of Roberta Naujok

After more than 15 years working in a chemistry lab, Roberta Naujok felt it was time to become what she always knew she was - a teacher.

Now a Hudson High School science teacher, Naujok earned her doctorate in Chemistry at UW - Madison, and was recruited by 3M after graduation. She worked there from 1997 to 2014, in the corporate supporate lab. There she dealt with higher level, more difficult problems with other staff that had earned doctorate and master's degrees.

From the start of her career with 3M, Naujok worked with a company outreach program that visited schools.

"I just jumped right into that as soon as I got there," Naujok said.

After the birth of her daughter, Naujok went down to part-time, working three days a week. With less time in the lab, she started spending more time in the schools.

"I liked the days in the school more than the days in the lab," Naujok said.

After discovering this, Naujok decided to make the jump to spending all her days in the classroom and become a teacher.

She attended UW-Oshkosh, going through an alternative licensing program that took into account her previous education to become a licensed teacher. The program involved relearning science fields that she hadn't studied in years, like biology.

"I hadn't done that since a while, frankly high school," Naujok said.

Once she was licensed and done with student teaching, Naujok knew she wanted to teach at Hudson High School. She started substituting teaching, then working part time in the fall of 2015 before becoming full time this year.

"That was a really great way for me to ease my way into it," Naujok said.

Now that her transition is complete, Naujok is enjoying life in the classroom full-time.

"I'm never bored," she said. "I would often get bored in the lab."

That engagement is her favorite part of her new career.

"I love constantly thinking about what we're doing," Naujok said.

Though some things are similar, she spends as much time in the classroom as she used to in the lab, Naujok said she takes her work home with her more often now as a teacher.

"I had no idea exactly how hard it would be going into it," Naujok said.

Though she's happy where she is now, Naujok said it was valuable for her to start in the industry before becoming a teacher. Her past experience as a chemist adds an extra aspect as she's teaching students about these topics.

"It's helpful to know how what I'm doing applies to what I'm teaching them," Naujok said.

That ability is a benefit for her and her students.

"We're trying to train them for what real scientists do," Naujok said.

In addition to the hands-on experience with topics, Naujok also has experience working in the industry, and being hired into it, that she can share with interested students.

"I can give them guidance on the kinds of things that companies are looking for," she said. "That's helpful."

And Naujok herself is able to continue learning, from her students and other teachers.

"I think our appetite for learning new things grows as you get older," she said. "It's really cool to learn for the sake of learning."

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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