When an average student becomes a Chem God

Robert Massey shares his path to science divinity


Maddie Cooke

“He’s one of the best teachers at the school. He’s always been one of the best teachers at the school from when I was here,” Kelsey Wahl said. “I wouldn’t want to teach chemistry with any other teacher.”

By Jessica Krueger, Staff Writer

      Robert Massey has poured his heart into his teaching for 30 years at Tigard High, yet even with the amount of time he’s been here, he still remains much of a mystery to many of his students.

    Massey grew up in San Fernando, California. Raised during the sixties and early seventies, Massey’s childhood was vastly different from children’s lives today. A self described wannabe hippy, Massey lived through the 1967 Summer of Love, and experienced the Vietnam War from home. He even owned a headband. What’s most surprising however, is Massey’s early schooling. Although he encourages hard work now, this was not always the case fifty years ago. He was not a good student and only did well in the classes he liked. “I remember my 10th grade history teacher and it was all I could handle to sit through that class, but math and science I really enjoyed,” Massey said.

    Although not recommended these days, Massey also loved to play with mercury as a kid–straight out of the thermometer. “When I was a kid, my mother would buy me thermometers and I would break them to get the mercury out,” Massey said. “I remember having these boxes with just a whole bunch of mercury in there that I would play with, and it was just super cool.” To this day, mercury still remains Massey’s favorite element.

    Nowadays, Massey entertains himself with biking, reading, traveling, music and, as anybody taking his class would know, drinking Starbucks coffee. His favorite coffee order, albeit only one of them, is a triple venti nonfat latte. Massey also enjoys listening to Bob Dylan, the Moody Blues, and John Prine. Some of his favorite movies and shows include the classic movies “Annie Hall” and “Casa Blanca,” and the hit shows “Breaking Bad,” and “Better Call Saul.”

    Being vegetarian is also a big aspect of Massey’s life. His propensity towards vegetarianism began in his youth but has continued with him throughout his life. “I was never much of a meat eater,” Massey said. “My father used to make these god awful thick steaks and as a kid it would really gross me out. The way animals are treated is despicable.”

Mr. Massey has a passion in his teaching that is displayed in his dedication and devotion to every student and his desire for each student’s success

— Kennedy Parish

     Although he dabbled in veganism for a while, he found that being a vegan didn’t quite fit him. He hasn’t eaten meat since 1986. When eating out, Massey enjoys vegetarian tacos, cheese enchiladas, the occasional pineapple pizza, and chocolate ice cream from Baskin-Robbins.

    Massey has been teaching at Tigard High since 1992 and gets up no later than 5 a.m. every day, although sometimes as early as 3:30 a.m. During that time, he drinks coffee, listens to NPR or the news, and works on lesson plans.

     Occasionally he’ll listen to music and try to find the perfect song, usually something by Bob Dylan. He gets to school at 6:45 every morning and usually stays until 5 p.m. Students often come in before and after school to ask questions and get help on homework and worksheets. Massey is always happy to help.

    Senior Kennedy Parish took IB Chemistry 1 and is currently taking IB Chemistry 2. Massey has always been there to help her when she needed it.

    “Mr. Massey has helped so many times in chemistry. He’s let me come in at 7 a.m. to work and stay after school until 6 p.m.,” Parish said. “Mr. Massey has a passion in his teaching that is displayed in his dedication and devotion to every student and his desire for each student’s success.”

    Senior Alex Snow took IB chemistry 1 junior year and found that Massey always had useful knowledge to help him.

    “I like Mr. Massey because he was very knowledgeable and informative,” Snow said. “He was a little intimidating at first, but I soon realized that he is a huge database of useful information.”

    But Massey’s path to becoming a teacher has not always been clear. After high school, he didn’t go to college right away. After a number of years, he attended San Diego State University where he studied in hopes of becoming an astronomer. But it was not easy. Massey had to pay for college himself and it was a slow process.

     In addition, becoming an astronomer at the time required a PhD, something that Massey simply didn’t have the funds for. So he looked into other options. During his college years, he volunteered to help kids with math and science. He also helped his niece and nephew with their homework, and slowly amassed a huge network of kids that would ask him for help. He found himself enjoying the work and eventually decided to become a teacher. After graduating from college, he walked out with a major in teaching high school chemistry and physics, a minor in astronomy, and over 100 grad credits in addition to his  bachelor’s degree.

    With his teaching, Massey has impacted not only students, but coworkers too. Kelsey Wahl took chemistry with Massey when she was in high school, and now they help each other out teaching chemistry. She finds Massey to be a great friend too. They chat and vent both before and after school. Overall, Wahl finds him to be an extremely hardworking teacher.

    “He’s one of the best teachers at the school. He’s always been one of the best teachers at the school from when I was here,” Wahl said. “I wouldn’t want to teach chemistry with any other teacher.”

    Wahl found Massey super helpful when she took his class, and to this day she still has her notecard from the class.

    “I just remember how organized and well thought out and thorough the class was in terms of content and what to expect going into class everyday and what to expect for tests,” Wahl said. “As a student, I just really appreciated all the work that Mr. Massey put into the class.”

    Ultimately, what may be most memorable about Massey is his willingness to help others. He is honest. Sometimes brutally honest, but always honest. He knows what it means to have a meaningful life. Whether you like Mr. Massey or not, one cannot help but be swayed by his wisdom, crafted through life experience. “[To have a life well lived is] to be kind, to be ethical, to be honest with people, [and] to do whatever you’re going to do well,” Massey said. “To feel that you have made a positive difference in people’s lives, and to enjoy your own life too. When you wake up in the morning, have as few regrets about what you did the day before as possible.”