Science with Heart: Nail Award Recipient Analice Sowell Shares Lifelong Passion for Teaching

June 9, 2014

Faculty News

Mrs. Analice Sowell

Mrs. Analice Sowell

When Mrs. Analice Sowell was a young girl, she set up a classroom in her parents’ home office, complete with a chalkboard and an antique student desk, so she could play school with friends. Somehow, little Analice, now the 2014 John M. Nail Outstanding Teaching Award recipient, always ended up as the teacher.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in education at Christian Brothers University, she was headed for a doctorate in chemistry and a research career, when she had an epiphany: “I had always wanted to teach, and I needed to come to grips with what my heart was telling me to do,” she said.

After completing her student teaching, she worked for two years in research for Buckeye Technologies (now Georgia Pacific Cellulose), developing analytical testing methods and working on new product development.

“It was a great opportunity. I worked with wonderful people and learned about materials science and engineering, much of which I now share with students in my advanced course.”

Eventually, “all roads led back to teaching,” and she joined the faculty in 2007.

With a lifelong love of her craft, it is no wonder the Class of 2014 chose Sowell, the chair of the Science Department, as this year’s recipient of the Nail Award. Senior Class President Chris Galvin ’14 presented the award during Commencement, describing Sowell as an outstanding teacher and mentor who easily meets the standards for the award, including expertise in the subject matter, the ability to teach in a way that students understand, and having an impact on their lives.

Salman Haque ’14 said Sowell “goes above and beyond to help her students.” He first experienced her dedication during preparation for Lower School Science Olympiad competitions.

“What struck me was her willingness to give help to anyone who needed it,” he said. “As I moved into the Upper School, participating in Science Bowl made me appreciate Mrs. Sowell even more. As a coach she came to practices before school and not only helped us go over questions but also tried to explain and teach us as we went along. She even managed to put up with us during car rides to Knoxville for the competition each year.”

Sowell said she takes joy in presenting new topics to students, working through their questions, and then guiding them through lab experiments that give them hands-on learning experiences. The ability to go into the lab and design protocols that provide the most effective approach for learning keeps things interesting for Sowell.

“It’s the best of both the research and the teaching worlds,” she said. “Students will go through a new experiment with me, and in return, give me feedback on what we need to change to help them better understand the material.”

In addition to serving as the Science Department chair and coaching science teams, Sowell teaches three sections of Honors Chemistry and one section of Honors Accelerated Chemistry II: Materials Science. She has also been instrumental in updating the school’s emergency procedures and in training faculty and staff in CPR during summers and in-service programs.

Earlier this year the American Chemical Society named Sowell Local Section Outreach Volunteer of the Year for her efforts to get students in the community excited about chemistry, including regular visits to Klondike Elementary, a Memphis inner-city school, to provide lectures and demonstrations for the Science and Engineering Club. In the local section of ACS, she has served as chair, secretary, and High School Exams Committee chair. She currently serves as chair of the Awards Committee and co-chair of the High School Program for the 2015 Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

She sees her volunteer community activities as an extension of her love for teaching. “It is a blessing to be able to love what I do every day and never get tired of doing it. Not many people can say that about their career.”

She is married to Michael Sowell, and she comes home every day to her youngest student, their 2-year-old son, Patrick.


The John M. Nail Outstanding Teaching Award was established in 1988 in memory of John M. Nail by his former students. Nail taught English and history at MUS in the late 1950’s, instilling in his students an enduring love of learning.

Nominations for the John M. Nail Outstanding Teaching Award are made each year by a Selection Committee of student leaders from the senior class, and the recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award is determined by a majority vote of the class.

The recipient receives a handsome salary stipend, and money is made available for professional development and departmental resources.


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