“I love chemistry, and I love teaching,” he said. “I love working with young people, and I’ll continue doing it as long as I can.”
Stemniski’s long and productive career as an educator was recognized recently by the American Chemical Society (ACS), which named him one of its 57 new fellows for 2016. The world’s largest scientific society, the ACS selects fellows in recognition of their outstanding contributions to science and the profession and service to the organization.
With slightly fewer than 1,000 fellows among 157,000 ACS members, the selection process is highly competitive. Most fellows conduct research, publish in scientific journals or hold patents, among other accomplishments, and Stemniski was surprised when he learned that he was in the process of being nominated based on his teaching, outreach and service.
“I’m very honored and humbled that my colleagues felt I was deserving of this,” he said. “I told them that I’m not a researcher, but my nominator felt that my dedication to education over 46 years was sufficient to qualify me.”
Stemniski earned a doctorate in organic chemistry from Fordham University in 1967, intent on a career in industry. But after a few years with DuPont, he moved into teaching and says he has never regretted it.
His success as an educator has been well recognized. He’s been named the McKean High School teacher of the year and Delaware ACS chemistry teacher of the year, in addition to numerous other teaching honors and awards for public outreach in science. He’s worked on statewide science curriculum standards and has constructed, administered and graded the annual high school chemistry exam for the Delaware ACS since 1990.
At UD, his students praise him on online comment sites, often noting his clear presentations of class material and willingness to offer extra help whenever asked. That’s all part of how Stemniski sees his job.
“I don’t think there’s a secret to my teaching,” he said. “I try to present the material in an orderly fashion that is understandable to my students.