Farewell, Mrs. Condurso!


What makes a good teacher?

The list is a pretty extensive one, but if you were to sum up all of the qualities from various sources online, you’d find that good teachers are always listening, empathetic, adaptable, engaging, patient, respectful, creative, great communicators, challenging students, and teaching lifelong lessons as well as willing to learn some lessons of their own.

As students, we certainly don’t expect all of the teachers we meet to immediately match every trait on this list—that would mean coming across the “ideal teacher.” However, sometimes a school and its students might just be so lucky to have a teacher who has all of these amazing qualities, and for Lenape High School, that teacher is Mrs. Kimberly Condurso.

Sadly, it’s time that we must say farewell as she moves on to new ventures.

Mrs. Condurso (née Murray) has taught chemistry at Lenape her whole life since leaving The College of New Jersey in 1994 and has been teaching for the past 29 years. Since then, she’s taught essentially every level of chemistry and currently teaches AP Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, and CP Chemistry.

According to Mrs. Condurso, she knew she always wanted to be a teacher since she was little: “I had all my stuffed animals all lined up underneath my little chalkboard, and they were such a good class. I think through high school, it was a matter of what I was going to teach, not if I was going to be a teacher.” Finding the subject she wanted to teach came later. “My dad was a chemist and I really liked my chemistry teacher in high school, so I’m sure that was a big influence. But then, I thought, of all subjects to teach, chemistry would be the one subject that I could teach and I could legally blow something up…just the awe of chemistry, like doing chemistry; I don’t teach it for the, so much the content, it’s more of the doing of it that is really exciting, like to hear the ‘oohs’ and the ‘ahhs’ when people see color changes and things happen that they don’t expect.”

Mrs. Condurso with a titration setup and her mole, Lester

Mrs. Condurso has also been the advisor of Chem Club since the 90s and has creatively found a way for older students to teach younger students (i.e. Family Science Night and Hartford Outreach) without working in a K-12 school, which she had actually always wanted to work in. She reflects, “When I originally got the job here, I was like ‘how can I still make that happen?’ Science outreach was a big passion of mine, and that was one reason for motivating me to do the Chem Club.” She has also run the Deborah Heart Challenge Team and worked in marching bands for 20 years, assisting Seneca’s marching band and color guard.

Not only is Mrs. Condurso a decorated teacher, being named Burlington County Teacher of the Year, State Teacher of the Year (and Finalist), and Dancing with the Teachers Champion (we’ll get to that later), she is incredibly humble as well. While she’s honored to have earned all of those accomplishments, she’s most proud of bringing clarity to a challenging subject for her students: “I like taking a subject that’s difficult like chemistry and making students achieve what they never thought possible. Just seeing those light bulbs go off and taking something that’s really really hard and trying to create ways to connect to things to make it more tangible and to be able to remember it like six months later when an AP exam comes along, you know, so I’m most proud of that.”

Speaking of her students, her favorite thing about teaching is connecting with them. She says, “I was meant to teach high school; I had actually applied for another high school in South Jersey and I was turned down and the principal told me when they interviewed me that ‘Oh, I think you would be better suited to be an elementary school teacher’ and I was like ‘What?’ I just am meant to be with high school kids, I’m meant to be able to talk one-on-one with them. I love being able to have a conversation with a young adult…I have two boys at home that are young and I give so much credit to elementary school and middle school teachers because I can’t handle that level of teaching. But the high school kids are definitely where I was meant to be.” And Lenape is where she stayed; I’m sure I speak for the whole school when I say that we’re extremely glad that Mrs. Condurso decided to stick with us, and it was certainly that other school’s loss.

Since she’s been at Lenape, Mrs. Condurso has made some notable memories. For one, she’s taught chemistry on a stage behind a curtain for about four months when her room was being remodeled, and, as luck would have it, the fall play was set up and there was a study hall of around 200 kids on the other side of the curtain. But, knowing Mrs. Condurso, nothing was going to stop her from teaching chemistry and doing labs, so, naturally, she dragged all of her lab materials onto the stage. Were the curtains extremely flammable? Sure. With some careful teaching and dedication though, Mrs. Condurso got the job done. She’s also had some fun memories with her colleagues, and the most unforgettable was the pranks. She recounts, “One day I walked into this room and there was a Christmas tree planted in my sink, like the rootball and everything, an entire Christmas tree like up to the ceiling that [Mr. Hessler] cut out of his backyard and put into a sink. But I ended up winning that prank because he ended up getting poison ivy from taking the tree out of his yard and putting it in the sink.” She’s also had fun battling it out with other staff members in the school’s spinoff of Dancing with the Stars, Dancing with the Teachers. In this event, a student would pick a teacher, and they would design two dances, one designed by each person. They performed their dances at night, and a panel of judges would select a winner. Her highlight was beating Mr. Cattani, which was during his first or second year at the school, and who’s apparently super competitive. She still has the trophy on her shelf to this day. However, one of her most meaningful memories at Lenape was meeting her husband, Mr. Michael Condurso:

“The romantic story of meeting my husband is that we met in the copying room. It was when we used to have midterms and I had to copy my midterms after school and he was ahead of me and I was really annoyed because I was really in a bad mood that day. I was like ‘Oh my god. How long are you gonna be?’ I didn’t even know who he was. I was just mean…and he was like ‘I’m sorry.’ Then I came back in and was like ‘I’m sorry that was really mean’ and then here we are all these years later. I think my husband spends so much time here and I do [too], it was like we were meant to meet here because neither of us would have ever met anybody anywhere else because we spend so much time here.”

A final fond memory that she has is just all of the funny, crazy things that students have said over the years and the questions that never get old. She remarks, “Just when I think I’ve heard every possible question, every year there’s some new question that I always think ‘wow, no one has ever asked me that.’ 29 years later I’ll still say ‘no one has ever asked me that, how is that possible?'”

Now, with 29 years passed, Mrs. Condurso is finally ready to part ways with Lenape and pursue different avenues of directly benefiting the world, with one path being the creation of her own business in holistic healing. “This has kind of been my side passion that I really do believe strongly that the human body is amazing and it has the capacity to heal itself. If the human body is provided with just some basic things that it needs, it’s amazing at what it can do…I’m very much into homeopathy which is just a very natural form of medicine that has no side effects, I’ve used that for years. I’ve been working with other types of healing modalities too, and I’ve just seen miraculous things happen with people being able to heal from emotional conditions, physical conditions. I work with people, I work with animals, and it’s been mind-blowing…I’m always just being a scientist about it where I’m investigating, ‘why did that work or why did this person with this incurable illness now get cured from doing this very simple thing?’ So it’s been incredibly rewarding, I don’t want to say it’s more rewarding than teaching. It’s equally as rewarding. I wish I could do both, honestly, like I wish I could clone myself because I’m so fortunate to have found things that are just so rewarding to me…so maybe in my free time I can work on cloning.”

Through holistic healing, Mrs. Condurso has been able to achieve some incredible results: “My own kids are adopted and I’ve really been able to work with them and some of the struggles they’ve been through having been adopted, so some of the emotional struggles there. It’s been a very gentle way to kind of help heal them of some of the struggles that they’ve had. But even just something as simple as the common cold or even during COVID, I was helping many many people. My mom has pretty consistent respiratory issues, and when she got COVID, I wasn’t worried because I felt empowered by what I’ve learned. I chose not to look through COVID with fear and doubt because I had this whole toolbox of things that I knew worked, so I was going around and I was helping people to make sure that they were fine. My mom ended up just having a fever for a couple days and that was it, but I really do think her story would have been very different if I didn’t have the toolbox that I had.” The idea of holistic healing isn’t new either. Homeopathy, an alternative medical approach of treating ‘like with like’, has been around for 200 years, effectively healing people through past pandemics and epidemics. As Mrs. Condurso puts it, “It’s this age-old practice that still exists, and it’s still incredibly beneficial and super cheap and super easy and very little to no side effects…Even just a common cold—it’s not gonna prevent you from getting sick, but you’ll get better in probably half the time or less with just giving the body a little boost in the right direction.”

Of course, while we’re all very happy that Mrs. Condurso will be pursuing another one of her passions, it’s never easy to be saying goodbye. The same can be said for her as well. While she won’t miss grading papers (although she still loves giving feedback and challenging assessments), she will definitely miss the students:

“Education has changed around this room for 29 years; different policies change and some are good and some are bad, but as long as I come in A201 and I shut my door, I’m here with my students. I’m on top of the world. When I made my announcement that I was leaving, it was hardest to tell [my students]. It was much easier to tell Mr. Cattani and my peers, but that was the hardest day, was telling [my students] because that’s why I do it. I said to my husband afterwards, ‘Oh my God, [they] were all so unselfish.’ Not that [they] would be selfish, but a lot of teenagers out there, you know, with the way the teen brain works, it’s kind of like, ‘what about me?’ And nobody was like, ‘well, who’s gonna teach me AP chemistry next year or who’s gonna write my letter of recommendation?’ Nobody, not one person even said that. I could just feel the genuine caring…not that I was surprised by that, but it was just very overwhelming.”

As a student of Mrs. Condurso’s, I can attribute to the fact that she has touched the lives of every student that she’s had, in one way or another. I have never met a teacher more passionate about what she does than her, but more importantly, more passionate about the gift of learning. Every day, she shows up, and you know it’s for her students—it always has been. I’m sure any student that’s had her can tell you that she’s made learning attainable; whether it’s through her comedically simple analogies, stimulating demos, or supportive personality, she’s achieved what every teacher hopes to achieve, which is to take a hard concept and make it understandable. When someone like that leaves a school, their presence will be sorely missed. But, on the bright side, Mrs. Condurso says that she will not be far. She’ll be working in some local offices, at home, and her husband will still be at Lenape if anyone wants to communicate with her. She looks forward to being “more involved from an extracurricular thing of seeing what students are doing outside of school.” And fortunately, she doesn’t plan to leave teaching behind either—her scope is just a little broader:

“I’m a teacher at heart and even with this new business, I need to find ways to teach, like I would love to teach younger kids, the next generation, how to care for themselves in a much more natural way. I guess I just see too many people, too many students, too many of my peers suffering more so than when I started my career. There’s just too much sickness in the world and I feel like there’s ways where it doesn’t have to be the way it is now. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and just one by one, I’ll try to make the world a better place.”

A good teacher is hard to come by, but finding a good person is arguably even harder. Thank you, Mrs. Condurso, for everything that you’ve done for the Lenape family. We are going to miss you so much, but we know that whatever you do, you’ll be doing amazing things.