I have been a CASE member for almost 30 years. CASE has been instrumental in furthering my career in science education leadership. I learn a great deal from attending and presenting at CASE conferences and count many CASE members as my friends. Receiving the Jessica Sawko Teacher Leadership Award is a tremendous honor and is the most significant professional award I have received.
What motivated you to pursue a career in science education?
I have always been in wonder of the natural world and since I was small, I knew I would go into some type of science. After finishing my studies in biology, I became interested in teaching. Having never really grown out of my adolescent self I thought middle school would be a good fit for me. And, indeed, it was. I thoroughly enjoyed the students’ energy, enthusiasm, and yes, at times, sarcasm. I was also fortunate to start my career at Fernando Rivera Middle School in Daly City. The administration was very supportive and the staff and students I worked with were amazing. I was able to grow as a teacher and educational leader.
In what ways have your views of science education changed after you developed professional learning opportunities for teachers?
What I truly value is science education being on the leading edge of promoting equity and inclusion. The NGSS was pivotal in this process with its guidance from the 2012 A Framework for K-12 Science Education. The Framework’s chapter on equity and diversity calls for educators to provide science for all students. When I first started my career, this wasn’t addressed nearly as much as it should have been. Although our profession still has room for progress, I am glad to see we are headed in the right direction. I now see teachers using inclusive strategies in their lessons and working to create classroom environments where are students feel safe and valued.
What lessons have you learned while developing professional learning materials and how has it affected you personally and professionally?
Early on, I learned teachers needed both professional learning in science content as well as in teaching strategies. In addition, they benefit from support when they bring back what they have learned to their classrooms. The California Math and Science Partnership grants worked in a similar way where they had intensive hours where participants learned new material and follow hours where the participants applied their learning in their classrooms. I worked with WestEd’s K-12 Alliance for many years and they were instrumental in developing my leadership in science education. The leadership piece of the professional learning has affected me the most, personally and professionally. It helps you better understand yourself and the people around you.
What is the greatest accomplishment of your career so far?
I believe the greatest accomplishment in my career has been in establishing an effective 6-year science education program for administrators. Through our work with the CA NGSS Early Implementors, our district was able to have a core group of administrators attend science professional learning and provide sessions on science education to all of our K-8 principals and learning directors. We held three or four sessions a year. Our topics included NGSS, equity in science education, 5E lesson model, and science walkthrough rubrics. Administrators were often asked to gather data on their site’s science instruction and bring back to the next meeting. Our team worked hard to create sessions that were fun, engaging, and meaningful. In addition, teachers were aware of these sessions and that our administrators were making science a priority at their sites.