Meet Commonwealth Faculty: Rebecca Jackman, Assistant Head of School and Chemistry Teacher

Behind every Commonwealth student is a team of individuals who know them personally and are committed to helping them grow and succeed. While the student’s faculty advisor and classroom teachers are often the most visible members of this team, there’s a rich network of staff who help provide the holistic care and support that allows all students to flourish. 

As Assistant Head of School, Rebecca Jackman applies her warmth and wisdom to seemingly every facet of life at Commonwealth: Guiding students on a fulfilling academic path to graduation. Coordinating a fascinating spate of electives. Planning events from orientation to Diversity Day, our celebration of identity. Teaching chemistry, her first love (but more on that in a moment…). And overseeing countless administrative duties that keep school operations humming along. She's even been known to sing in the school chorus. 

Despite this long list of duties, she always finds time for her students—after all, it’s what she loves most about her job. Keep reading to get to know Ms. Jackman a little better. 

What do you love most about working at Commonwealth?

Two things, first and foremost: the students and my colleagues. I am thankful for both in different ways. They keep me energized.

I really love the autonomy that I've had as a teacher, too—doing what I love to do and teaching in the ways that I think make sense to teach. For me, it's about getting students to think about—usually, for the first time—the connections between the macroscopic world that we observe and what's going on at the atomic or molecular level. How do we use data and measurements that we can make at the macroscopic scale to understand the molecular world? 

What do students (and families) need to know about you and what you do?

Much in the way that our Dean of Students (Dr. Eagle) focuses on student life, as Assistant Head I focus on academic life, making sure students are on track to graduation. My role is to make sure we're offering an enriching and interesting set of courses every year, and that we have teachers who are ready and excited to teach those courses. 

Related: Explore the Commonwealth Curriculum

When and how can students expect to meet you?

New families meet me pretty early on; I correspond with them via email not long after they enroll, and we usually connect in person during New Student Day in early spring. I'll be in touch again during the summer before classes start, as students are getting ready to enter the Commonwealth community, and then supporting them as they transition in. And, of course, I’ll be there at orientation in September!

What's the best way for students to connect with you during the school year?

I'm typically either in the chemistry lab teaching or in my office on the third floor. I'm always happy for students to stop by and talk. Students can also reach out by email and set up a time to chat. Catching me in the hall is often a good way to get my attention, too!

What was your favorite class in high school?

That's an easy one: chemistry. It stole my heart when I was about fifteen years old. There was a particular demonstration my chemistry teacher did where she poured sulfuric acid onto sugar—it's a very exciting experiment that involves a cloud of black carbon and steam rising out of a beaker. And I thought, Wow, I just want to be able to do that. 

What is your motto?

This isn’t really a pithy motto or words to live by, but I’m constantly thinking about how we overestimate what we can get done in large chunks of time, and we underestimate what we can get done in five minutes—and those little snippets of time add up. 

Oh, and get more sleep. That’s what I usually say to adolescents!

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