Eastern Tech HS science teacher Patrick McConnell uses puns, acronyms to make information "stick"

Posted at 8:16 AM, Feb 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-24 18:04:29-05

Have trouble remembering the six prominent elements of the human body? Just think of SPONCH, says science teacher Patrick McConnell.

SPONCH stands for sulfur, phosphorus, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen. It's one of the many acronyms McConnell uses in his classes at Eastern Technical High School.

He'll also use puns, jokes, songs and hand gestures to help his students memorize tough subjects, even if they roll their eyes at him.

"During the test, I'll see them doing the hand motions. I don't care if it embarrasses them in the moment because I know it's going to help them remember it," he said.

His affinity for memorization tricks is just one of the reasons students at Eastern Tech say McConnell stands out among the teachers. They say it shows he's willing to do whatever it takes to help them learn the material.

"He's intrinsically motivated and ambitious for learning," said Neelesh Mupparapu, a junior at the school. "He has that drive not only to teach kids the course, but for them to remember."

"Mr. McConnell is the type of teacher that will single every student out and make sure they're on their best game, getting all their work done and getting the highest grade they can get on every test or quiz," said Alyssa Means, also a junior.

McConnell teaches anatomy and physiology at Eastern Tech, as well as a pharmacy course in the Allied Health program. Eastern Tech is a magnet school that offers students several career programs, like health care, engineering, cooking and construction.

"We [the teachers] know how hard it is to get into the medical field. The earlier kids start thinking about it the better," he said.

"We like if they have an experience and don't enjoy it because it's crossing stuff off the list too."

Outside of the classroom, McConnell leads the Skills USA chapter at Eastern Tech, which prepares students for competitions in their chosen career field. McConnell also added a community service element to it, where the kids will do fundraisers like a spaghetti dinner for No Kid Hungry, or teach elementary school students about the importance of nutrition and exercise.

"Mr. McConnell is one of a kind," said Kate Strauch, a junior. "He really wants to work to inspire all of his students."

McConnell says he knew he always wanted to be a teacher, and to him, the job is about much more than being an educator.

"I do my best on a daily basis to be the best role model I can for my kids so that they be the same thing for their kids or they go on to be teachers," he said. "They have some sort of model, some sort of basis 'I know I can do this, I can be right in what I'm doing.'"

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