Mike Rice, long time Upper School science instructor, is letting his hair down. Figuratively and literally. When I sat down with Mike to talk about what most inspires him in his role as a member of the faculty at Hammond, he was quick to explain the reason for his “longer” hair. “I’m conducting a science experiment with my students and I haven’t seen a pair of scissors since January 1. We’re going to find out how fast hair grows,” he quipped.
Mike’s journey to becoming a teacher could best be described as accidental. While in graduate school, he taught a few classes to earn extra money, but unknowingly fell in love with teaching. It was then that fate intervened and a departing science teacher from Hammond invited him to teach for a day … and the rest is history ... well, actually science.
Mike has a way of connecting with students on many levels: as a mentor, teacher, coach, and even cheerleader. “We had good teachers at the school I attended, but we didn’t want to hang out with them. Our interactions with teachers ended when the bell rang. I remember coming home from Hammond one day to find two students pressure washing my fence.”
A visit to Mike’s classroom is nothing short of magical. In addition to a 45-gallon saltwater aquarium, the room is abuzz with living creatures, fossils, skeletons, and just about anything from the wild. His new classroom in the Innovation Center has ample room to display a small museum while still providing space for creative learning and exploration.
Mike is known for bringing science to life. He and his ecology students have counted tree frogs on South Campus, biology students have spliced genes from jellyfish and introduced them into bacteria to discover they glow, and even experimented with blood typing. “I love science and I love the kids I teach. These students of mine with their quirky craziness put me in a good mood no matter what. Five minutes in the classroom and I’m in my happy place. I love science and I love teaching … and every day I’m surprised I get to do both.”
As Mike looks back over the years to what has been most inspiring, it always comes back to the students. “With one of my students, Anne Goodall, there was a real battle of what was going to win her heart and mind … science or theatre. I’m proud to say science won!” He is also quick to point out that several of his students can now be counted among faculty members he has taught. “What’s always been most amazing to me is that Hammond students return. There’s a real connection here. This is family. I didn’t grasp that at first, but now I’m drinking the kool-aid … and passing it out. This is home to me.”