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Idaho State University's Sharlene Jolley receives Educational Advocate Award

November 28, 2017
By Kirsten Cooper, MarCom CPI

photo of award winner Jolley
Sharlene Jolley, left, pictured receiving her Educational Advocate Award.

POCATELLO – Sharlene Jolley, a chemistry teacher at Idaho State University’s Idaho Falls campus, understands that learning is cyclic and must be repeated until understood and that not all students learn at the same pace. Her dedication to her students earned her the Educational Advocate Award from the Partnership for Science and Technology at the Regional Energy Alliance earlier this year.

Jolley has been teaching for 21 years, 15 of which have been at ISU.

“It was very exciting that a large, scientific community recognized all the volunteer time and effort I have put into building a teaching science here in Southeast Idaho,” Jolley said. “I’m happy for the chance to share my excitement and vision with influential people that could help out with funding and opportunities for my efforts in the future.”

Jolley’s love of teaching started when she began teaching the general and organic chemistry labs as a graduate student at Kansas State University.

This led to tutoring students outside of the lab, and eventually the department created a tutoring room so she could help more students.

“I had never planned on teaching, but I loved seeing the lightbulb moments of students when they finally caught on to a concept,” Jolley said.

After graduation, Jolley took a teaching position at Bakersfield Community College. She loved it so much that she decided to look for a teaching position when she moved to Idaho in 1999. She now teaches the chemistry labs, general chemistry courses and organic chemistry courses at ISU’s Idaho Falls campus.

Jolley’s teaching style focuses on excitement, enthusiasm and appreciation, and she strives to teach by example.

“I don’t expect my students to love chemistry or change majors, but I have failed if they don’t leave my class with those three principles in mind, ready to see the world as a gigantic scientific laboratory and everything as chemistry,” Jolley said.

She explained that each concept she teaches has three different levels: the basics, or the first introduction to the core idea; understanding, where they analyze things and find out different approaches and details; and application, where students begin solving complex problems by applying the concepts they’ve learned.

“Everything I teach is presented three times, often starting the chapters over once they are complete just to get a second look at it,” Jolley said. “I have written all my own teaching material that gives multiple problems for the different levels with detailed answers worked out.”

In addition to teaching, Jolley spends much of her time volunteering and hosting science shows at schools across Southeast Idaho.

She has served as the Shelley freshman STEM Club advisor, ISU Idaho Falls STEM Club co-advisor, the Idaho Falls Chemistry Club advisor, and was a member of the school board for the Shelley school district from 2013-2017.

Jolley is currently working with Shelley High School to teach advanced placement or concurrent chemistry and ISU’s chemistry department to teach concurrent general chemistry to local high school students at the Idaho Falls campus.