Andrée Prigoda Reed, ’70 BS Chemistry, ’78 MA Education Administration, was recently named the College of Sciences Alumna of the Year. Reed taught for 33 years in the Clark County School District and is currently an adjunct chemistry professor at the College of Southern Nevada. Her love of chemistry and education is a life-long passion. She has continued her studies in biology, computer literacy, and chemistry and has taught at numerous universities and high schools since 1965.
Reed won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching for Nevada in 1987 and the American Chemical Society Western Regional Award for High School Chemistry Teaching in 2003. She formerly served as a board member of the Southern Nevada Science Teachers Association and the Nevada State Science Teachers Association. Additionally, Reed was a long-time member of the Nevada Science Standards Review Committee, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and had her work published in trade journals. Reed continues to be an active supporter of UNLV and is a member the UNLV Foundation President’s Inner Circle.
Learn more about how Reed ended up at UNLV, left her imprint on the Lily Fong building, and why teaching was more of a hobby than a job:
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Miami Beach, Florida. In December 1959, when I was 15 ½, my family moved to Las Vegas because my mother and stepfather bought a motel on Fremont Street.
I started college at the University of Colorado, majoring in music. After three semesters, I didn’t have any money and was not sure about my future, so I dropped out. For a semester I watched three college courses on TV and was really intrigued with the nuclear chemistry course. I was working at the Nevada Test Site and started commuting to the little campus in the desert, which only had a gym and three buildings. I then had two daughters and dropped out again to be a full time mother during their formative years. I finally finished my undergraduate education at UNLV, earning a chemistry degree in 1970.
I arrived at Las Vegas midway through my junior year in high school and I had to take semester exams in all my classes. I could not pass the chemistry exam because we had covered so little at my school in Florida. The teacher, Mr. Reynolds, would not give me credit and recommended I retake chemistry my senior year. He was “cute” and so was my lab partner so there was no way was I getting out of the class. I received no credit for the first semester but he reluctantly allowed me to stay in the class. With his help I managed to pass the second semester with a B. During my senior year I took his second year course (long before AP courses).
Majoring in music was not a good career choice since I was number 13 of 13 drummers. My next choice was mathematics but I hated formal proofs. Then I realized I had an excellent background in chemistry, and found it challenging and rather enjoyable.
Why did you enjoy teaching?
Teaching was to be a short-term job while my daughters were in elementary school. I never wanted to be a teacher. However, when you have students who want to learn, teaching is great. What is not to like when your students go to international science fairs, score the highest in the county on Chemistry Olympiad exams, earn college credit from high scores on Advanced Placement exams, and when Science Olympiad teams take state three years in a row?
I have a master’s degree in educational administration, but influencing students to pursue a career in chemistry or other science fields was more interesting than dealing with parents and students’ poor behavior.
What was UNLV like when you were here?
I first saw the campus in 1960 and there was only Frazier and Grant halls at the end of a dead end street called Maryland Parkway. My first classes were in the Lily Fong building, where I left my imprint on the ceiling when I started a benzene fire in my beaker because I failed to follow correct lab protocol.
I then transferred up to Reno because I had exhausted “Nevada Southern’s” courses. I returned to UNLV in 1966 because my husband worked at the Nevada Test Site, and the school now had a complete chemistry program. Nine years after high school graduation, I graduated from college with a degree in chemistry with five other chemistry students. My husband and two daughters were present when I received my diploma in the rotunda of the convention center. The rotunda is now gone and UNLV is no longer “Desert U,” which is what the dean at the University of Colorado called it when I was thinking about an advanced degree in chemistry in the mid-1970s. He also said I would have to retake junior and senior classes because UNLV was not recognized as a reputable institution. Oh how UNLV has changed.
The classes then were small: two students in physics and five students in chemistry. My professors were fresh out of college and gave essay exams and expected you to understand the material. My classes at Colorado were all larger than 150 students. Guess where I got the better education!
Did you ever teach at UNLV?
I taught an evening section of Intro Chemistry for science and engineering majors for eight years. I also was working on a master’s in environmental chemistry but never did a dissertation.
What are some of your hobbies?
I have always enjoyed teaching and never considered it work. That is why as long as the brain is retaining and the College of Southern Nevada has a use for me, I will continue to teach part time. I love to travel, read books, sew, and now have time to grow plants that I grew up with in Florida.
Something others might find interesting?
My youngest daughter graduated with a mathematics degree from UNLV and my eldest grandson is trying to decide on a future while being involved with a fraternity at UNLV.