2014 Paul Shin Memorial High School Teacher of the Year Recipient
I have asked my friend and colleague Larry Walker to write the story of this year’s winner of the Paul Shin Memorial Award Debbie Bennett. While I have known Debbie for almost ten years, Larry has worked with her much more closely and knows her better than I do. I know Debbie is most deserving of this and has informed me about how much it meant to her when she was notified that she had been selected. She worked with Paul Shin in the Northridge Chemistry Teachers Group. I remember seeing her at Paul’s funeral and realizing how much his passing had impacted her and I am quite sure he is looking down quite proudly on her.
– Michael A. Morgan, Chair
Educational Affairs Committee
Dr. Deborah “Debbie” Bennett was born in Brooklyn, NY, but has been an “Angeleno” since the age of 2. At Westlake (now Harvard-Westlake) High School, her Chemistry Teacher, Craig Deutsche, had a huge influence on her life. He blew things up, shrunk rulers so measurements wouldn’t work and generally made the class fun. These traits she now passes on to her own students.
She went on to major in Chemistry at Duke and received a Ph.D. in Analytical Chem at LSU. For 12 years she then formulated cosmetics before entering the cauldron of teaching at Canoga Park high School. In her first year there, Debbie had no Prep Period and taught 3 different courses. She is filled with gratitude for the lessons, equipment and moral support given her by Barbara Sitzman and Judy Baumwirt in that traumatic year.
After 12 more years she moved on to join Larry Walker at Calabasas H.S. where she now leads the science department and is known as an innovator and a real leader in the district.
Debbie met Paul Shin at Judy Baumwirt’s teacher support sessions, and was struck by his passion for teaching and clarity of ideas on conveying Chemistry to students.
Dr. Bennett met her husband Gene when both were members of the same research team at Duke. In their 32 year marriage they have had two daughters. She apologizes that both are lawyers, but they tried. As infants their nursery was decorated with Periodic Charts!
– Larry Walker, Education Committee