We are pleased to highlight Noyce alumni who are making a difference in high-need schools. If you would like to recommend an alumni from a Noyce program, please contact Betty Calinger, email@example.com.
Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School, Bronx, NY; Earth Science, 9th and 10th grade
I try to relate the topics to and make connections with my students' cultural background, using places, events, and tools that they are familiar with. For example, when I am teaching about rocks and minerals, I show pictures of myself in the field whether it is in the Dominican Republic, New Jersey, New York City or New York State. In these pictures I am either collecting fossils, finding minerals in a mine, or next to an outcrop. In addition, I also help students learn by letting them share their own experiences with science whether it is a hurricane, a blizzard, an earthquake, or any other natural event. I also engage my students in a lot of hands-on activities in which they work in heterogeneous groups to do scientific investigations, gather data, and work with simulations and models.
Ronan High School; Ronan (MT) School District No. 30; Earth and Space Science, Chemistry, Physics, AP Environmental Science, Montana Natural History
My school, Salish Kootenai, a tribal community college, emphasizes culturally sustaining and responsive practices in all aspects of life. I feel that they gave me a holistic view of my students, that they are diverse and widely vary in cultural learning, and to never take those things for granted. I also teach in Montana, which has a mandate for all schools to teach IEFA (Indian Education for All), which helps drive an understanding within the teaching field of these diverse peoples and cultures. I use project and place-based education when teaching in cross-cultural settings. I try to have many hands-on and sense-making activities to get the students working together and engaged with the content.
Mandarin High School, Duval County (FL) Public Schools, Biology
Whenever I am asked about teaching in a cross cultural setting, I think of one class I had when I still taught middle school science. In that class, I had students who were Hispanic who demonstrated vastly different levels of competency with the spoken and written English language. I had students who were gifted and those with learning accommodations. Most of my students were Black, and many of them asked why I was there teaching them. I found ways to meet students where they were. When I learned one of my mute English Language Learners could understand and write in English, I invited him to help in lab demonstrations and use hand signals and white boards to communicate with the class in a way in which he was comfortable. I used graphic organizers and guided notes to help students stay organized and keep difficult terminology memorized. I think the most important things I do is to exercise patience and flexibility.
Hardy Middle School, Washington, DC, Mathematics (grades 6-8) and Special Education
I use a variety of strategies to get to know each of my students. In the first weeks of school, I gather data on how they commute to and from school, what they do in their free time, if they have siblings and/or pets, what it looks like where they do homework. Then I gather data about their approaches to solving rich math tasks – how are their foundational skills, how do they interact with peers? The better I know students, the better I can anticipate pain points of lessons and then plan lessons that engage them in class work that is appropriate for their cognitive load levels. I tell them stories about my life, I praise them for work that they do well, correct them when they need redirection. Through this process, we establish a learning environment that rewards growth and engagement.
Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland, CA; Algebra 1 and 2, Data Science (an alternative to Algebra 2) (8th-12th grade)
A first step in supporting all students is to try to make it less about me and more about them. I want to allow students to be who they are, and to feel comfortable being who they are in the classroom. I want to hear their voices as much as possible so I try to establish a culture where all students feel comfortable sharing their math thinking, where we appreciate different ways of seeing and approaching the math, where mistakes are celebrated rather than causing embarrassment. I sometimes allow students significant leeway in terms of behavior or ways of expressing themselves. I believe students come to understand my classroom as a place where they can be themselves, but avoid crossing lines not because they will be punished, but because they understand the importance of maintaining a learning environment.
Montrose High School, Montrose, SD; Advanced Biology, Biology, Conceptual Chemistry, Conceptual Physics, Anatomy and Physiology, Physics, and Chemistry (grades 9-12)
The Noyce REMAST (Rural Enhancement of Mathematics and Science Teachers) program at South Dakota State University (SDSU) focuses on getting the very best STEM educators into rural districts. As the only science teacher in my district when I started, I had no one to talk to, no opportunities for collaboration or to get other ideas. My SDSU professors were some of the first people I would go to for advice. They maintained their connections with me and pushed me to get involved in professional communities, like NSTA, and take on leadership positions. In 2019 I was a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching.
Roberto Clemente Community Academy, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL; Science (grade 9)
The Noyce program taught me how to teach science in a way that would promote curiosity, critical thinking, creativity, and empathy in the students learning it. More than that, the Noyce program showed that science should be exciting and explorative for students--not a means of bogging them down with memorization tasks. So many students come into the school with the idea that they “aren’t good at science”, and Noyce has prepared me to tackle that with encouragement and relevancy. This helps me bridge connections for students between what they are learning in my class and what is happening in their other classes--especially the CTE (career and technical education) courses they might take as upperclassmen!
James Bowen High School, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL; Physics and Chemistry (grades 10-11)
I’d say that the most valuable thing I received from the Noyce program at Loyola University was experience. Again, there’s nothing that can prepare you for the day-to-day other than doing it. There’s a gap between a well-crafted framework for teaching and the realization of student potential. Content and pedagogy are important, but engaging the world in which students live and interact is far more effective than dogged adherence to a structure. I think the most vital thing I picked up through Noyce is that flexibility, improvisation, and student interest are necessary to a holistic practice.
Oxford Academy and Cambridge Virtual Academy, Anaheim Unified School District, Anaheim, CA; Mathematics, grade 8; Statistics, grade 12
My students are the greatest highlights and the most special achievements in my teaching career. I have so many students who make me proud that just thinking about their faces or names makes me emotional. They let me know that I made a difference in their lives and that makes me keep going when I get down. Additionally, my students are the ones who teach me to learn about my own shortcomings and personal biases. My students are my best teachers and encourage me to keep pushing myself to be a better teacher and a better person. One recognition that was special to me was winning the Edyth May Sliffe Award from the Mathematics Association of America in 2019 because of the heartfelt nomination letters from my students.
U-32 Middle & High School, Washington Central Unified Union School District, Montpelier, VT; Geometry, Algebra II, Alternative Special Education Program
Noyce brought to my attention the importance of access in education and motivated my subsequent study of the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) framework. From the tasks I implemented, to the needs of my students from various backgrounds, to trauma-informed teaching, I found preparation in many forms as I sought to be a more culturally responsive educator. I remember fondly the rich discussions in seminars with UVM MAT faculty Colby Kervick and Barri Tinkler, where the power of scaffolding learning came to light. I was forced to confront my own subjectivities and how they manifest in what I perceive to be culturally normative. Noyce forced me to look within myself and within my pedagogical choices to make sure the learner is at the forefront.
Unity Point Elementary School, Carbondale, IL; Introduction to Physics & Chemistry (5th grade); Earth/Space Science & Environmental Problem Solving (6th grade)
Since Southern Illinois University has a large international population I regularly work with a great diversity of people. Working with diverse students requires me to be open to many different approaches and examples and to find opportunities to draw on the history of many different cultures, not just the European traditions. Whenever possible, I have parents from other cultures share their experiences and expertise with my students. I also draw on students from places around the world as we investigate earth and environmental science to bring their experiences into the classroom. In science, it is natural to learn through experience which helps break down language barriers.
Kalaheo High School, Kailua, HI; Algebra I, Physical Science (9th grade)
In my classroom, there are students who have lived in Hawaii their entire life, as well as many who have moved around the country their entire life because family members are in the military. This makes an interesting challenge for a teacher. I want to incorporate as much of the Hawaiian culture as I can and also support those students who have traveled so much. I try to learn a lot from my native Hawaiian students about their culture, since I am new to the island and have so much to learn. I also make sure to encourage and support my military family students. As a military spouse, I have experience with that life. I try to include math and science problems that mention aspects of each “culture,” and make sure that I give ample time to ask questions that are related to content and context.