by Julia Arnold-Hess
Heeding Pope Francis, whose recent encyclical “Laudato Si” made an urgent appeal for a new dialogue on the environment, science teacher Doug Emancipator ’96 doesn’t water down the facts for his students.
In fact, water conservation is a central focus for the Saint Ignatius Hydroponics Club – the “HydroCats” – which Emancipator moderates. He founded the club in 2013 to grow plants using water, minerals, and other nutrients instead of soil. The club has successfully grown crops in the campus greenhouse and has donated over 80 pounds of lettuce and tomatoes to the West Side Catholic Center.
This year, the HydroCats received $25,000 in grant and scholarship money from the Lexus Eco Challenge to implement a conservation program on campus. The club is taking steps to reduce organic waste in the cafeteria by composting. Rain barrels are also being installed on campus to conserve water used for irrigation.
Emancipator has also established a summer internship program in collaboration with Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), where he received his master’s degree in cell and molecular biology. The program enables students to engage in research during the summer alongside professionals in fields like cellular biology, computer engineering, bioengineering, and biometrics.
“It’s a blending of the worlds of research and education. Guys can have hands-on experience with real research,” says Emancipator. The program is in its third year of operation.
He’s also developing an environmental course along with fellow science teacher Guy Savastano. The course will “integrate scientific, theological, and literary material to understand how the Earth works and how we as human beings fit into that architecture,” says Emancipator.
Even though he seems at home on the Saint Ignatius faculty, Emancipator never really thought he’d end up teaching on the high school level, despite double-majoring in biology and education at Ursuline College. He enrolled in the master’s program at CWRU with plans to become a researcher.
“My original thought was to go in for a Ph.D.,” says Emancipator. He delved deeply into his research, and also worked as a teaching assistant. As he received advice from professors and mentors, Emancipator slowly realized that life as an academic wasn’t for him. He felt he could have the most impact teaching high school students, whose views of the world are still being formed.
“High school students are still so malleable at that time,” he says.
Emancipator taught at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio before joining the Saint Ignatius science department in 2012. He believes the influence he has in the classroom far outweighs what he could have accomplished as a researcher.
“If I can inspire ten students, then I’ve got ten-fold in the field,” says Emancipator. And being at Saint Ignatius inspires him to be his best self. “I try to put forth my best effort, but when I’m reflective, I wonder, ‘How can I improve?’”
Senior Hunter Jarosz is proof that Emancipator’s efforts are bearing fruit. Hunter is active in the HydroCats and helped write the successful grant proposal.
“Mr. Emancipator is very knowledgeable and helpful but still gives us the space we need to discover and learn things on our own. His genuine passion and countless hours put into our club has inspired me greatly,” Hunter says.
Science department chair Jerry DeCarlo is pleased with Emancipator’s contributions to the department.
“From his very first year at Ignatius, Doug has made outstanding, creative contributions to the students and the school. He has an indefatigable energy and is an integral part of the science department and the Saint Ignatius community,” DeCarlo says.