“I like directing kids so that I know they’re going to have a future, so that I know that they’re going to be going somewhere, and that if they’re lost, I can at least try to help them get on the path. I don’t just try to make sure I teach them chemistry, I try to teach them all the tricks I know to succeed, beyond the class. I try to instill in them that the grades, while they look great on paper, that’s not what’s important. It’s what you put into it, what you get out of it, and deciding what you want to do with it.” This is the philosophy of Dr. Chad Byrd, Randolph-Macon Academy’s chemistry teacher.
Dr. Byrd originally went to college with the intention of becoming a college professor, but when he realized how much of his time would be spent on research--which would then belong to the university--and fundraising for his own programs, he decided that route was not for him. Instead, he spent a couple of years at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, where he served as a National Academy of Science Research Fellow. “It was an exciting time,” he said. “It was nice to have a place to do almost any experiment any time I wanted.”
Although he was enjoying his work, Dr. Byrd soon had to give it up when his wife Jessica became ill while pregnant. The couple had invested funds into a medical building, and they decided that the business and his family needed his focus, so Dr. Byrd quit his job and helped get the facility up and running.
The road soon curved back around to teaching. Once the medical practice was on solid footings, Dr. Byrd took a position training the hospital employees on their electronic medical records. “I literally went into work for fun,” he recalls. “They promoted a really healthy environment, and it was amazing.” Gradually he realized that a great part of the enjoyment was coming from teaching these motivated students. “I thought I’d do teaching from the beginning and I’d ruled it out,” he says. He decided then that he would explore it once more.
Dr. Byrd subbed for two years in Winchester City Public Schools. During that time, he decided that this indeed was his calling, and he returned to school for his teaching certification. Then he obtained a full-time teaching position at Central High School. Seeking a position closer to home, he interviewed for a position teaching math at John Handley High School, but when his interviewer, Lisa Cobb--who just happens to be the wife of R-MA Vice President Jonathan Ezell--learned his passion was to teach chemistry, she referred him to R-MA, where there was a chemistry position open.
“Once I toured the grounds, I loved this place immediately,” Dr. Byrd says of R-MA. He soon found the same was true of the students, as it was easy to share his love of chemistry with the college-bound teens. “It’s easy for chemistry,” he admits. “There’s chemistry going on everywhere around you. I joke and say, ‘It’s the study of matter, and it’s everything that matters.’”
Dr. Byrd and his wife, Jessica, have been married for 23 years. They have one son, who attends UVA, one daughter who is in high school, and a pet cat that has been part of the family for 15 years. Dr. Byrd enjoys white water rafting, skiing, canoeing, and traveling--he enjoys a cruise at least once a year, sometimes twice.
- Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic and State University
- M.S. Chemical Engineering, West Virginia University
- B.S. Chemical Engineering, West Virginia University
- Classes: Chemistry, AP Chemistry
- R-MA Mentor