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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Maria Klein loves teaching chemistry. She loves the job so much, she gave up lucrative chemical engineering jobs in Germany and the U.S. to teach at Chesterfield's Clover Hill High School.

"Being passionate about the subject certainly helps," Ms. Klein said. "It makes it more interesting when you enjoy what you're teaching."

Sure, she uses periodic tables and textbooks, but there's also the occasional joke to get a reaction.

Student Haley Barefoot shared one of her favorites.

"One time when she was teaching us about cat ions, to help us remember it, she'd tell us their 'paws-itive'. She made the whole class laugh because she went (making claw hand)  'paws-itive', because their ions," Barefoot recalled.

Ms. Klein was the recipient of the 2016 Franklin D. Kizer Distinguished High School Chemistry Teacher award.

"She's really good at her job," student Brad Atkinson said. "She really takes the time to make sure all of her students understand the material."

"When you teach nomenclature there's not much you can do to make it really interesting," Ms. Klein said. "You just learn the set of rules. But when you teach thermo-dynamics or something, you can do these experiments that involve heat and actually show them how it works."

Using real science and, periodically, using a chemistry pun, makes it all fun when it comes to building better minds.

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