Jerry Link of Northwest High School is not the only chemistry teacher in the world to illuminate dill pickles. He is not the only one to tell stories so funny that, at 7:30 a.m., high school juniors laugh instead of nap. He is not the only one to point a megaphone down the hall and announce a student's "A."

He might, however, be the only one to do the Pee-wee Herman dance atop a lab table.

For his offbeat, enthusiastic and rigorous teaching techniques, as well as his unswerving compassion toward his students, Link, 57, was honored Monday with The Washington Post's Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award. The annual award is given to 20 private and public school educators selected by their school districts.

This is hardly Link's first honor. He has been The Post's All-Met cross-country coach of the year -- he coached 30 years -- and was named teacher of the year by the school PTSA and the Maryland Association of Science Teachers. Northwest's senior class last year named him "most dedicated teacher"; the year before, he was the "teacher who makes learning most fun."

Link's students dress up as elements of the periodic table for Halloween, write limericks to explain chemistry concepts, and learn about positive and negative charges through tales of the romantic antics of four teenagers.

On the televised news show at Northwest, Link and a colleague have performed the parts of Wayne and Garth from "Saturday Night Live," introducing their goofy skits on vocabulary with the jingle, "Word World, Word World, study time, excellent!"

Link is somewhat obsessed with invigorating the chemical concept of the mole. Stuffed moles, decorated by students, hang from the ceiling of Room 311, playing the "Harry Potter" sport quidditch, sporting a mohawk, dressed in a Santa suit, and so on.

A mole of a substance contains 6.02 x 10{+2}{+3} molecules, so Oct. 23, from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m., is Mole Day at Northwest, and duly celebrated. Adults years out of Link's classroom still remember Link strumming a broom to the "Ballad of Davy Crockett," singing, "One mole of anything's what anything weighs."

The thick, gushing nomination packet for Link's Agnes Meyer Award was filled with testimonials such as "My child was not hooked on learning until you came around" and "Science suddenly became my favorite subject!"

Amid the fun, it might be easy to overlook just how tough the science is. Whether Link's students are making slime or determining the chemical makeup of pennies, they follow up experiments with thorough, groan-inducing lab reports -- college textbooks required as sources.

Link's students learn to use the public library. They write "I can do it" before solving a complicated problem. They watch lessons on videotape if they've been home sick. And they benefit from Link's famously effective, if convoluted, mnemonic devices. (To remember that standard temperature is 273 degrees Kelvin, think of your face: two eyes, seven holes and three hunks of cartilage -- ears and nose.)

Link, who grew up in Connecticut, started teaching on Long Island, N.Y., in 1967. He took his first job in Montgomery County four years later at Cabin John Middle School, and from there went to Wootton and Quince Orchard high schools. He proudly lists on his resume eight years emceeing the Mr. Quince Orchard pageant.

He is equally concerned with students' lives inside and outside the classroom. At Northwest, where he has taught since 1998, Link holds annual chemistry nights, when parents and siblings come to school with his students to build Cartesian divers out of soda bottles or rockets out of film canisters.

A poster in his room recognizes a Student of the Week, and every Friday he reminds students about the importance of the choices they're about to make over the weekend.

Accolades are somewhat overwhelming to Link, who split the $3,000 Agnes Meyer award money among his two grown children and the colleagues who organized his nomination.

He still believes he has work to do. "If I'm so good, why is there a kid who needs more help?" Link said. "If I'm so good, why is there a kid cutting class?"

Northwest High School chemistry teacher Jerry Link is one of 20 to win The Washington Post's Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award. He is popular among students, faculty and parents.Northwest High teacher Jerry Link helps a chemistry student. Link sometimes holds chemistry nights for families to join students in science activities.