Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S. Biology
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Name of Noyce institution:
Fort Lewis College
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Mesa Alta Junior High School, Bloomfield, NM; Science, 8th grade and S.T.E.M., 7th and 8th grade
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I worked in my school district (Bloomfield) for 13 years as an Educational Assistant and was a licensed athletic coach so teaching was something I was doing all of the time. When I decided to go back to finish my undergraduate degree after a 13 year hiatus, getting my teaching license along with my degree was one of the best things I had ever done. I wanted a way to be able to stay in my community and affect the Native American population in the most positive manner. The Noyce scholarship became available when I nearly quit pursuing my degree again because I was running out of funding. When this opportunity presented itself, it was clear to me that teaching with my science degree was something I was meant to do. Being a Native American woman teaching science gives me the chance to show Native American students that it is possible to live with and carry traditional values while embracing modern ways of thinking and living.
Describe your current teaching assignment.
At my school, I teach six periods of 8th grade science and one S.T.E.M. elective class available to both 7th and 8th graders. This is my third year teaching at the middle school. During my time here, I have become the Science Department Head. I am a member of two school improvement committees–the CORE team and the Leadership team. I continue to coach Track & Field as the Head Throws coach. My home and school community is very diverse culturally, and it continues to grow. Our school district covers over 1500 square miles and includes a part of the Navajo Reservation. Because of our vast boundaries, our school population is about 1/3 Native American, 1/3 Hispanic, Mexican, LatinX, and 1/3 white. This is unique compared to neighboring districts about 5 to 10 miles away.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
The Noyce Program at Fort Lewis College prepared me with exceptional professors in the Teacher Education department who helped me embrace and recognize the diversity of our school communities. The faculty helped bring an understanding to issues of equity, diversity, cultural awareness and competence in education that existed among the people groups who made up our local towns and cities. The Noyce program provided many opportunities to engage with local students and educators in science and math camps. This helped to build a network with the local educators as well as provide a network of other teachers with similar content who were also a part of the Noyce program. With this type of involvement, I felt supported and guided in a very positive manner.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
I wholeheartedly believe that my Noyce Program at Fort Lewis prepared me for culturally responsive teaching. The cultures in our communities will only continue to grow and fuse together so it is always important to learn and understand their evolution. When we embrace culturally responsive teaching, it helps to create safe and trustworthy relationships not only with students but also with their families.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
Being a science teacher, one of my larger focuses is to change the negative mindset that middle schoolers seem to have about science and STEM in general. There is a disconnection from elementary to middle school that seems to bring a negative connotation of science being difficult and confusing. I have used strategies academically, emotionally, socially, and culturally to slowly change this thinking into a more positive one. I have used a lot of hands-on and active learning to engage the students and collected numerous strategies that are a part of my ever growing teacher toolbox. I read articles and take part in professional development opportunities that continue to help me grow as an educator in my content area and as an effective educator overall. It is important for me to grow right along with my students.
In addition to teaching, are you exploring new areas in content, teaching strategies, leadership, etc. If so, what areas and did the Noyce experience play a role?
I have recently decided to teach a STEM class as an elective at my school. I would like to create an interest and positive mindset towards not only STEM careers, but the possibility of teaching in a STEM field. My focus would be on Native American and LatinX students, but I think any student is a big win for the field. The Noyce experience overall will continue to provide me with a wealth of resources and a network of teachers who help to lead me in the right direction.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
The real highlight of my first years of teaching has been how much I have enjoyed it. Becoming a teacher during a global pandemic is not the most ideal way to begin a career, but it has made me more versatile. It’s been a real challenge, but a good one. I am the Science Department Head and a member of the leadership team at my school. I am also a part of a student/school improvement committee and am entering my 20th year of athletic coaching. Lastly, I recently was invited to be a AAAS/ARISE Advisory Board member and participated in the Voices from the Field Panel at the 2022 Noyce Summit in DC.