Dr. Thomas Castonguay

  • Chair of Science Department, Director of STEM
  • Faculty Member at King since 2014
  • AP Chemistry. Honors Chemistry. Conceptual Physical Science.
  • BS, Central Connecticut State University
  • PhD, University of Vermont

What motivated you to become a chemistry teacher?
Ever since childhood, I have been insatiably curious about nature and addicted to the thrill of figuring things out. Although I am fascinated with all aspects of the physical and natural world, chemistry is my particular interest. As a young boy, I was a fan of the TV program, MacGyver, which followed the exploits of a secret agent and scientist. Even more enjoyable than the elation that accompanies the “I get it!” moment, is the ability to replicate that feeling of enlightenment in another person. Teaching chemistry allows me not only to spark interest in students, but also to share in the delight of demystification.

What do you hope your students gain from knowing you?
Above all, I want my students to gain confidence. The material I teach is often challenging. However, I believe that experiencing intellectual discomfort is the first step to real learning. I want to see students thrive after assimilating a concept they once thought was beyond their reach.

Describe a lesson you look forward to each year?
The nature of things at the atomic and subatomic level, a domain of science often referred to as quantum mechanics, is never intuitive, yet exceedingly interesting. When students are introduced to such topics for the first time, they often react with skepticism or outright disbelief. When I reveal the empirical data and implications suggested therein, students begin to realize how fascinating the atomic world is. The level of engagement is absolute, and the flurry of questions that ensue are indicative of worldview transformation taking place.

King helps students achieve their personal best. How do you accomplish this in your classroom?
A significant portion of my classroom time is spent in problem-solving sessions that are student centered, wherein students have a sequence of problems to solve as I walk around the room to get a close-up view of the strategies being used. Although I provide guidelines and general considerations, I always encourage unique approaches. These sessions allow for valuable, one-on-one time with students, for I get to address individual needs by providing hints and clarifying misconceptions, as needed.

What drew you to becoming involved in STEM programming?
As a former college professor and scientific researcher, I am interested in helping students understand the practice of science -- learning science in a classroom and also acquiring a sense of what applied science is at the professional level. At King, students participate in a variety of activities, e.g., STEM Club, mentored research, competitions. The STEM Faculty’s aim is to nurture interest in STEM fields as we acquaint students with modern science and engineering practices. The exposure to professional-level STEM gives our students a boost when they choose college majors and pursue career paths.