Ornelas Encourages Student Connection in the Science Department

Anisa Walji

New to the Greenhill Science Department, Charlene Ornelas said she hopes she teaches her students that they can come to her for support. Ornelas teaches Chemistry and Honors Chemistry at Greenhill.

Ornelas said the biggest lesson she learned as a college student was to utilize her professors.

“The importance of utilizing my professors and knowing that they are really passionate about their practice,” Ornelas said. “I utilized their support because your professors are the experts in their field.”

Ornelas grew up in the Philippines and was born and raised in Manila.

“Growing up abroad was definitely different, and when I moved here for chemistry and college, I noticed that I learned science a little differently than my peers,” Ornelas said. “It was both challenging and helpful because we learned things differently in the Philippines. It is more group-style work and independent work. For the most part, I felt that I was ahead of the game when I moved here.”

Ornelas went to the University of North Texas in Denton. She said that as a woman in STEM, it was a difficult experience because the majority of her classes were overwhelmingly male. She remembers the pressure she felt in male-dominated classes. However, she made sure not to let it get to her. Ornelas said it made her more motivated to make a difference for future female students.

“I’ll never forget it,” Ornelas said. “I was in a physics class and there were 20 students, and just three of us were women.”

Ornelas originally planned to go to medical school, decided that route was not for her after taking a few classes. In college, Ornelas was a lab assistant, tutored her peers, and helped her professors with their labs. She said she enjoyed the work and decided to become a teacher.

Ornelas said, “teaching found me, I actually didn’t find it.”

She has been teaching for six years and was previously at Independence High School.

“I’ve always enjoyed science and always been really good at it because it made sense to me. Something about science and math, I just understood it. That is when I realized I could do this, and I could teach this to younger students,” Ornelas said.