Teacher Feature: Ken Turner

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Ken Turner “I think science is a tool and a lens that can be used to help understand life around you.”

Ken Turner didn’t plan on teaching. In fact, he imagined being a veterinarian, the proud owner of doughnut shop or even a landlord. For him, the possibilities were endless, and he wasn’t in a hurry to pick one major.

“I was all over the board, and it wasn’t until my junior year of college when I finally picked my major and teaching, so there is hope for those who make late decisions,” he laughed.

Now, after 22 years of teaching science at Schaumburg High School, Turner is an innovator in the educational field not only because of teaching, but also by studying nanotechnology and material science, and applying it to the high school level. Turner also said he enjoys how science allows students to use it to other aspects of their lives outside of the classroom.

“I think science is a tool and a lens that can be used to help understand life around you,” Turner said. “Not everyone will grow up to be a scientist, but you need to be able to grasp science and use it to understand what happens in the world all your life.”

Turner and Frost

Ken Turner and colleague Kerry Frost co-teach Chemistry of Foods together.

Turner teaches physical science, freshman biology, and a course he helped create and co-teaches with his colleague, Kerry Frost, called Chemistry of Foods. He is involved with Materials World Modules (MWM) at Northwestern University, which is an educational program that strives to increase literacy in mathematics and science through material science and nanotechnology. Additionally, he has published works on science specifically for the high school level, received numerous awards and grants, and has led and presented at several conferences.

Although he has many accomplishments — to name a few, he was recognized with an Illinois State Board of Education “Those Who Excel” award three times, won a Toyota Tapestry Award as project manager, and a United States Fish and Wildlife Service Partnership Award — Turner remains humble and values some of the simpler aspects of life.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be recognized and win awards that I never knew existed,” he said. “Like the ‘Those Who Excel’ awards. There is nothing that justifies me having that, but I am so proud and humbled that the District would honor me in that way.”

However, he said it all comes back to teaching students and interacting with his colleagues. Connecting students to science through projects and watching them apply it to real life is a part of teaching Turner said he enjoys most, especially for students who aren’t interested in the subject.

“Professionally, I am most proud of being a part of faculty at a school and in a district where innovation is expected and a source of pride,” Turner said. “It’s a place where so many wonderful teachers come to work with me every day, and where I can build off of their knowledge. Every single one of my awards didn’t occur out of a vacuum. It occurred with help from all sorts of people.”

After the final bell rings at the end of the day, his said his biggest accomplishment in life is his family.

“My family is my source of happiness. To be able to come home and see my children, they are ages 12 to 23, and even see the ones who aren’t home, just makes me so happy. They have different things they are proud of. I’m not sure if any of them are picking science, but I am only a little sad about that,” he laughed.