Originally from Bethesda, Md., Shawn Rock only recently found his love for chemistry when he went back to school to get a degree in chemistry. When he is not teaching, he likes playing guitar, biking, sailing and skiing. He also enjoys the show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” which brings together his mutual love for jokes and old cars.
Where did you work before coming to Brookline High School?
This is a second career for me. Before this, I worked in the computer industry, and I did everything you can imagine. At my previous job I was the vice president of operations for a marketing company, so I worked with companies like Microsoft, SAP and Oracle. It was always just on the edge of the engineering and science, so I did programming, consulting and training. I got to be involved with technology, and I got to be involved with engineering. The farther I got away from that, that’s when I became unhappy or frustrated. I found that I really like being near science or technology or things like that.
What made you want to become a chemistry teacher?
People sometimes ask me if I really love chemistry. No, I like being able to think scientifically. I had a lot of employees at my previous job that were coming right out of college and they really struggled with problem solving, communication and data analysis. That’s really super important in the professional world. I had been doing things in industry and making a lot of money for a lot of big companies, and I decided at this point in my life I’d like to do something that’s giving back instead of taking. I wanted to work with young people to help them to learn how to prepare themselves, so I went back to college, got a degree in chemistry and, in doing that, really developed a passion for chemistry. I’m looking forward to using chemistry as a way to help kids develop these important skills for the future.
How do you like Brookline High School?
It’s a neat culture, and I like the students. I really like the mantras they say, such as “Freedom and Responsibility”; people take it seriously. I like not having bells, since other schools I’ve worked in have had bells. The students take it seriously and they get down to work. It’s a nice place to work.
What did you do over the summer?
I went up to New Hampshire, spent some time on the lake and enjoyed just being outside. I read a couple of big, huge, fat books. When I got a degree in chemistry, I took summer classes, so for the last four years all of the projects in my house just got pushed away. My wife told me, “Your job this summer is to fix all the things that broke while you were in school,” so I spent a lot of time doing projects around the house.
How was your high school experience?
I went to Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., right outside of Washington D.C.. It was a school a lot like Brookline in that it was super competitive, very high-ranked, and students there were very high-achieving. I was not a rockstar student; I just kind of did my thing. I was really involved in the technical side of theater, sound and lighting. I hung out with those people and I did goofy stuff.
What advice would you give to your high school self?
Work harder, it matters, and learn that stuff. When I was in high school I had a real hard time with math and was not a big fan of math. It wasn’t until I went around and got my degree in chemistry that I said, “Okay, now I really have to figure this math stuff out.” So I would say, math is important. I don’t care what you’re going to do, you need to be comfortable with math. Don’t be afraid of it; it’s not impossible, and you can figure it out. I think I would say work harder and pay a little bit more attention to school.