2021 California Science Education Conference

Future Science Teacher Award: Samantha Abarca

Samantha Abarca

What inspired you to pursue science education as a career?
Since I can remember, I’ve always been curious about the natural environment we live in. My passion for understanding the world that surrounds us, is what drew me to science in general. I love science and how it’s interconnected to the experiences we go through on a daily basis. Specifically, pursuing science education came to me when I knew I wanted to support students coming from similar social-cultural backgrounds as myself. As a first generation, Latinx student I was not given the opportunities I sought for myself in high school, so when I went to university, it was then that I realized I had been missing out on my science education. I want to be able to provide meaningful, authentic, and engaging science lessons to all students that have the potential to lead careers in STEM. I want to nurture student’s growth and build their ladder to be successful people in the world.

Why are you passionate about science education?
I was given a lot of opportunities to pursue science in the field. I learned from various teachers, mentors, and professors from different educational facilities. I was given opportunities to excel in science by exploring in a laboratory, exploring out in the field, and collaborating with like minded scientists. I’ve always liked discussing science with my friends and family, and it brings me a lot of joy to teach others the world of science.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years?
I hope to grow as an educator through my experience both in the classroom and from the curriculum that I’ll be teaching. I hope to become an educator that continues to lead their practice through love, critical social justice, and culturally responsive teaching in the classroom. I will continue to grow my practice by honoring my students' assets and needs in the classroom, and to learn from them too! I hope to one day become a mentor to future science teachers and support them in the wonderful work educators do both in and out of the classroom. I will continue to pursue science education by learning about the best ways to support scholars in the science field.

How has integrating equity practices into your curriculum as a student teacher helped you to connect with students from underrepresented groups?
It’s all about being a culturally responsive teacher. Students feel connected and validated in the classroom when they know teachers genuinely care for them and put in the effort to build those relationships. I use real-life experiences that students go through on a daily basis to connect with the content standards in science. For example, asking students to trace their favorite food back to the sun, to connect with the content standard of energy transfer through organisms within ecosystems. I also support students’ strengths and needs in the classroom, by having students in specific grouping strategies to communicate with one another and support each other in the classroom. I love when students can show me that they’ve grown in the content through various platforms. It’s about the growth that students exhibit and when they can explain rigorous concepts to each other it is a joyful experience to be a part of.

What does this award mean to you?
This award is a stepping stone into my teaching career in science. I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve done in being a critical social justice educator and can’t wait to continue my work in the science education field with like-minded colleagues. Most importantly, my practice involves working in a place filled with students that will one day lead in the STEM field. I’ll continue to support & uplift BIPOC students' potential in the classroom that are often underrepresented in schools. This award means that I get to have the privilege and honor to serve BIPOC communities by teaching them all about science in various engaging & passionate ways.

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