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David Jigour: Inspiring tomorrow’s scientists
David Jigour
Pitman High School chemistry teacher David Jigour’s passion for science has made learning fun for his students and inspired many to pursue STEM careers (Photo contributed).

When students who have taken chemistry with Pitman High School science teacher David Jigour talk about their instructor, their eyes light up with admiration. They use words like “kind,” “approachable” and “passionate” to describe him, and they’re pretty sure he’s the smartest man they know.

“He’s one in a million,” senior Nolan Lok said.

It was these traits, combined with their inspiring experiences in his classroom, that motivated students to approach the Journal and recognize a teacher that has impacted their lives far beyond the hallways of their high school campus.

“Every lesson he teaches, he always presents it with a smile and you can tell he’s genuinely excited for us to learn,” sophomore Joelle Lok said. “When kids ask him questions, he’s eager to answer. The love he has for chemistry radiates to all of his students and makes them love it, too.”

Jigour has taught chemistry at PHS for the past decade, bringing both a flair and wisdom to the subject never before witnessed by the students, they said. He’s been known to go above and beyond for his students. If he’s sick, he’ll record videos of himself teaching the lesson for a substitute teacher to play for the kids in class, and he even created a special website where students can find help with homework, watch videos of that day’s lecture and even connect with other classmates for peer-to-peer tutoring.

Jigour’s zeal for chemistry is even inspiring the next generation of scientists, senior Sarah Siegel said. She’ll be attending University of California, Berkeley, in the fall, where she’ll be majoring in environmental sciences — a decision which came thanks to her chemistry teacher’s impact. Jigour and his class guided her passions, she said, like the time she was able to study the arsenic levels in Turlock’s water, helping her to realize that science can help solve some of the world’s problems.

“He makes everyone feel capable and I think that’s important, especially for girls who oftentimes are underrepresented in STEM fields. It was nice to have a teacher finally see me as someone who is capable,” Siegel said. “Thanks to him, I have a completely new appreciation for the world we live in. Up until I took his class I felt very uneasy in STEM fields and subjects, but it was his class that gave me the courage to pursue it.”

Nolan Lok will pursue a chemistry degree at University of California, Los Angeles, after graduation, and also has Jigour to thank.

“The sheer amount of effort he puts into his class is unmatched, and his passion for it made me want to do chemistry at college. He would drop everything and stay after class to talk to me about anything I needed to talk about,” he said, then recalling a moment from Jigour’s class where a former student of the teacher’s sent him an email, letting him know what types of questions were on his college chemistry exam. “I cannot wait to do the same thing for him next year.”

Sophomores Madison Ngo and Tristan Allen reflected on some of the experiments conducted in chemistry with Jigour, which made them think about more than just their grades.

“They’re not your average projects — he wants you to start thinking about the actual problems put forth in our world today, and wants to get smart, intelligent people to go into these fields and solve those problems,” Ngo said. “A teacher like that who’s passionate and passes his passion on to his students leads to more scientists in the world, which is so important.”

Allen reminisced on a case study project crafted by Jigour where the students examined carbon dioxide and its effects on the atmosphere.

“It taught you awareness about the world around you, and prepared you for what you need to do later n life to not only reduce your own carbon footprint, but help reduce the world’s carbon footprint,” Allen said. “He designs experiments to solve real-world issues.”

While Jigour’s love for chemistry is unmatched, there’s one thing that may make him as happy as science does: watching his students succeed.

“If you’re doing a case study and actually find something, he’ll get so excited and it’s the best satisfaction ever knowing that you made Mr. Jigour happy,” Joelle Lok said. “You know when you’ve achieved something great because he’ll get this big smile on his face. It’s the best feeling.”

While Jigour excels as a teacher, his talent in the humor department could use some work, the students joked.

“He’ll try to tell jokes and wants to make you laugh, but they’re pretty bad,” Allen said. “When he tells them, he gets so excited about it that you can’t help but laugh. It’s little things like that that he does to break down barriers and make you want to go ahead and learn.

“We feel a close connection to him, and everything he does is purposeful. You just love going to class every day.”