With new tools, new resources, and more access to the best classical information, this is an exciting time to be a science teacher and a science student. I am glad to maintain a connection with science teaching now that I am academic dean. Each year I'll teach one course in either biology or environmental science. I hope that students can experience science as an important (but not the only) way of experiencing and making sense of the world. Given the barrage of information that all of us now face, a primary goal of every course I teach is to help students decide what sorts of information are worth their attention. The kinds of questions that we hope that students will learn to ask in a science course will help them in whatever pursuits await them after CA.
Collecting, organizing, and analyzing data is important in science classes, but equally important is the asking of questions and making of observations that open up new possibilities for deeper exploration. Our curiosity about the natural world and ourselves is the starting place for conversations and active learning in my biology classes. Evolution and homeostasis are themes throughout the year as I encourage my students to engage in the process of scientific inquiry.
Education is both practical and profound. As I teach my students I keep in mind that one of the most useful aspects of physics is the development of an analytical approach to problem solving. These tools can be used in whatever context students later find themselves. Also, physics is a way of becoming close to something larger than ourselves; an almost spiritual glimpse of the underlying structure and beauty of the universe. For me, therefore, science is a supremely human endeavor that allows us to connect to each other and the larger environment in which we exist.
Years of experience outside of CA, including working as a clinical chemist, managing a large urban laboratory, and teaching at a private school in the Deep South, allow me to bring a different perspective to the chemistry classroom. These experiences have been invaluable to me and I like to share them with my students through the study of chemistry. By merging the real life practical nature of science with the more esoteric theoretical concepts, I feel that I can assist students in making the material more relevant to their lives. In addition, I view my classroom as a place where mutual inquiry occurs. This includes inquiry about the nature of chemistry, about ourselves, and about how we learn. In addition to the mastery of chemical concepts, emphasis is also placed on cooperative work, learning by doing (labs), problem solving, computer applications including the Internet, and research.
As a woman with two degrees in engineering, I hope to serve as a positive role model for my students. I have the unique experience of working with both NASA and Raytheon and being able to describe to my students the places where engineering, science, and math intersect. In addition, my engineering background has lent itself towards a more discovery-based and hands-on approach to my teaching. I do not believe in simply giving information to my students. I believe that lab activities and cooperative learning are some of the best ways of learning, understanding, and retaining information. My emphasis on group work not only allows my students to engage in the process of discovery, but to hone their observation and communication skills. I also challenge my students to take risks in the classroom and to accept that they cannot always know the right answer; sometimes, just figuring out the best answer is the only available option. Most importantly, I want my students to leave my classroom at the end of the day still thinking about what they’ve learned.
I have a passion about exploring our Earth as a system–researching, sharing our understanding through education, and using data and our knowledge in today’s environmental decisions. Trained as a geologist, meteorologist, and remote sensing scientist, I became involved with science education efforts. The creative people I have since worked with helped me see the many ways to think outside the box while engaging my students in science. I strive to help them develop their ideas, collect and analyze data to test these ideas, and consider their roles and capabilities in the process of applying science for their needs.
My most important role as a teacher is to encourage students to ask questions and to seek answers, not merely for the sake of asking and answering, but rather for the sake of engaging with the physical world, learning to formulate and solve problems, and experiencing the joy of discovery. Through labs, activities, field trips, discussion, and homework, I try to impart substantive knowledge, but more importantly I try to impart excitement about science, to provide tools to pose and answer scientific questions, and to instill the confidence to take intellectual risks. Instead of students just seeing an algae bloom on a pond, for example, I want students to ask what caused the growth, what the bloom consists of, and what effect it might have on the water. I have found that this inquiry-based approach works well for my classes.