Citrus Valley’s Robert Rooney shares his own experiences to improve student understanding in science

By AZRIEL OLMEDO

Student engagement and participation acts as a motivation for teachers to determine the most effective way of learning. In what seems as one of the most difficult departments to thrive in, students often find themselves lost and confused under the many, many concepts of science. Robert Rooney has found it best to share his own experiences to convey an understanding of the concepts and applications of his teachings.

Science Department Chair Robert Rooney teaches chemistry, physics and AP Physics 2 at Citrus Valley High school. Apart from his teaching credentials, Rooney says he is the academic leader of the Science Department, representing “the department at County, District and School Site level meetings.” He also manages the department budget.

However, Rooney isn’t the only one in his family that works in the field of science. His wife, Shannon Rooney, teaches honors biology and AP Biology in the room next to his. They have been teaching at the school since it opened in 2009.

Their daughters, Janelle and Megan, also share a rich history in the community. Janelle graduated from CVHS in 2017 and was a state-ranked shot putter in the track program. She is currently working as the shift lead at Starbucks for the United States Navy Reserve and is actively working towards finishing her college degree to become an elementary teacher. Megan graduated from CVHS in 2013 and has a degree in biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego She is presently working as an outdoor manager for an adventure company in Utah.

Rooney has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of California, Riverside in ‘87, and a Masters in Zoology from Arizona State University in ‘89. He worked as a quality control lab technician, but has always loved teaching. 

Rooney grew up in Rainbow, California, on a 41-acre ranch.

“I love the outdoors,” Rooney said, “[I] travel regularly to hiking destinations [in] Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and many places in California.”

Growing up Rooney had influences in his life. Rooney said, “Dr. Bill Mayhew at UCR was my academic mentor,” and “blended science with a love of the outdoors.” Additionally, Rooney grew up watching his father “teach at California State University in Long Beach.”

On the other hand, 20 years as a volunteer firefighter has helped him “develop resilience and strength in the face of adversities,” Rooney said when asked if any major influence has shaped him into who he is today.

Beyond his workdays, Rooney “shoots competitive Sporting Clays,” and finds joy in competing in sports that are “more accepting of a sore back and cranky knees.”

Nevertheless, distance learning has been proven difficult for many teachers alike, and has prompted many of them to change their lifestyle or methods of teaching to meet the needs of their students. When asked what challenges he had to overcome as a teacher, Rooney said, “Mountain living! We have been evacuated for seventeen days this semester and have lost power for as many as four days at a time. I always have a Plan B. And a Plan C. And a Plan D…”

“There is no substitute for laboratory experiences when teaching science,” Rooney said, “Simulation software is better than nothing, but it always does exactly what it is programmed to do. The best learning comes when a lab does not work as expected.”

Above all, Rooney encourages his students to “check their preconceptions at the door and work toward their goals,” regardless of the drastic change in learning.

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