I recently submitted answers to questions for a quarterly magazine published by my high school alma mater. You may remember that I attended a non-traditional athletic academy in Vermont because of my alpine ski racing talents. The magazine editor was looking for input from alumni who work in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Looking back and reflecting I realized that my passion for learning and especially professional learning around education started in high school. I am thankful for my non-traditional high school experience, but mostly for the life- long learner it prepared me to be.
What do you find most gratifying about your work? I love seeing teachers find ways to become their best at teaching math and science. If we help teachers come to know content better, then we have greater influence on how students come to know science and math. That is exciting to me.
Most challenging? I want teachers to see the value in always being a learner. It can be a challenge to get them to embrace learning. When teachers learn something new that usually equates to making changes on their teaching practices. We know how hard change can be!!
When did you realize this is the professional path you wanted to take? What motivated you? What was the spark? School was never very easy for me. I struggled with reading and writing as a child. Being motivated by my own struggles, I was led on a path to teach and to find ways to help all students, especially those who struggle like I did.
What does the future of science education look like? Science education has some bright spots and some not so bright. At the elementary levels in public schools we have experienced many years of emphasizing the teaching of language arts and mathematics. Because of that, students lack science content knowledge and are not succeeding as they could be. The bright spot is that the pendulum is swinging and an emphasis on science being taught in schools is beginning to take hold once again. The Next Generation Science standards are impacting that, and 27 states have adopted them to use and follow. The standards are well written and if adhered to students will be given the science education that is needed to be successful as a 21st century learner.
What are major trends you are working on? I am working to get the message out about the Next Generation Science Standards and what a teacher’s science classroom could and should look like when he/she is aligning lessons to them. I want elementary school educators to have the understanding and enough experience to teach hands-on science so that their students so that they grasp concepts and can solve problems around the science.
Take a look back, what is the spark that ignited your passion for teaching and learning?