2021 California Science Education Conference

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award: Laura Henriques

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Laura Henriques

What does being a CASE member and advocate mean to you?
I have been a member of CASE (CSTA) since I moved to California in 1995. I have always believed that it is important to be professionally involved and engaged. My initial involvement included presenting and attending at conferences. There were things, at the time, which I thought CSTA did very well but there were some areas which I thought could be better and I had some ideas I wanted to contribute. This resulted in my running for the Board of Directors as 4-Year College Director. A few years later I ran for the Presidential line.

I advocate for CASE in a variety of ways. CSULB has brought large cadres of students to the conference when it is in Southern California, I have included CASE membership for teachers who are part of grants and projects I oversee, and I always share the importance of professional engagement and membership with CSULB preservice teachers. We even have a student chapter of NSTA/CASE at CSULB.

Tell us some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned after serving as President on the Board of Directors for CASE and the Department Chair at CSULB, and how it has impacted your development personally and professionally.
I remember early on a business associate of mine was told that you should always be grooming your successor. I suppose that resonated with me. Not because I was going to move on to other things, but because we need to have more people participating and engaged, willing to do the work that needs to happen. As a result, one of the things I pushed hard for as President at CASE was building leadership capacity within our organization. Up until that time, the only people to serve on CASE committees were Board members. I worked hard to have committees be populated by our members. This was important so as not to burn out board members, but also to include more science educators from across the state in the work of our organization. It is really important for people to realize that they had something to contribute and ways to do so. This led to more people running to serve on the Board. It’s hard to picture yourself taking a huge leap from no involvement to a Board position, so the committee work allowed people an entry point to leadership within CASE. We also started a Leadership Event at CASE around that time as well. As leaders we should be inviting others into leadership and then support them as they make their way. It is exciting to see a new generation of educators taking up the mantle of leadership in CASE and the state. I enjoy working with them in CASE and the NGSS Collaborative and knowing that we are in good hands moving forward.

What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment of your career so far and why?
My students, the amazing teachers with whom I’ve worked on projects and grants, and the programs I’ve helped develop for children and future teachers are my biggest accomplishments. At the end of the day, for me it’s not the number of publications, grants or awards that matter, it’s leaving the educational landscape in a better place than when I started. I loved teaching K12 but joined higher education because I could make changes and an impact at a different level. I’ve been able to get involved in legislative issues and do state and national work in science education. I look at some of my former students and teacher colleagues, so many of whom I feel lucky to call my friends, I am proud of them and the small part I may have played in their development as educators and leaders.

What would you recommend for others to do to find encouragement and keep growing in their career?
We continue to grow and thrive when we surround ourselves with others who want to keep learning and making a difference, too. Find people or projects which will feed your thirst for new ideas, feed your soul for making a difference, and never quit doing the best you can.

What does this award mean to you?
I am grateful to my colleagues who nominated me for this award, writing nice things about me and my work. It is a true honor to get this award. I’ve watched some of the state’s heroes of science education get this award ahead of me. I’ve written letters to nominate many of them. To have my name forever linked with theirs means a lot to me. We don’t do this work for awards or the spotlight, but it is a wonderful feeling when our contributions are recognized and acknowledged.

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