Noyce Scholar Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: Biology
Subject area(s) and grade level teaching focus: Science, grades 6-12
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Fifth year or post-baccalaureate Noyce scholar
Name of Noyce institution:
Current academic or teaching status:
School and school district:
Woodburn High School
I discovered my love for science as an undergraduate at Willamette University, where I explored various branches of the sciences before becoming engrossed with botany and conservation. I had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Susan Kephart and conducted various field studies on the Camassia system first under a grant from the Student Collaborative Research Program then later in pursuit of my senior thesis. I had the opportunity to partner with various non-profit organizations, such as the Institute for Applied Ecology’s Native Seed Network and Earthwatch International in conservation and educational endeavors. My teaching career began some years later at Bridgeport Elementary, where I worked as an Instructional Assistant in the school’s Title I department. I found immediate and constant gratification in my work with students and began to explore what it meant to teach. I continued to expand my teaching expedition as a tutor at Sylvan Learning Center where I was able to assist a variety of students, ranging in age from elementary to college, with a variety of subjects, including science and advanced math. Through my work, I came to realize that science teaching would perfectly meld my passion for science with the joy I felt teaching. I found the Pacific University STEM program to be the ideal program to continue my teaching journey.
Why do you want to teach:
The privilege of inspiring struggling students to grow academically is the reason I am becoming a teacher. My choice to become a teacher, specifically a secondary science teacher, comes from my experiences with the elementary school students as an Instructional Assistant. I recognized that with the right instructor, someone who was patient and motivating, yet was firm and set high expectations, a student’s outlook on education could be changed. “I can’t do that” changed to “I have a question” and “Tell me more about…”. I also noticed the negative attitude many of these students had towards science, dismissing it outright as “too hard” without making an attempt to learn. Many of the students I worked with then had been labeled by the educational system as “at-risk”, “underperforming”, or “ELL” and too often those labels were cause for immediate dismissal by teachers and staff. “What will happen to these students when they reach High School?” I found myself wondering. As a teacher, I want to introduce my students to the wonders of science. I want them to understand that the labels they have been assigned do not mean they are guaranteed to fail. I want to present science in a universal light–it is not a discipline of the English Language alone, and no-one is “too stupid” to learn it. Above all, I want to show that personal change is possible–even if the student has struggled academically for the entirety of their academic career, they will be able to succeed in my class with effort, patience and, of course, the proper guidance.
Describe a memorable teaching experience:
As an Instructional Assistant, one of my most challenging groups was also the most rewarding. A conversation I had with one student in this group sticks out prominently in my mind. This student, a fourth grader, was reading well below grade level and had a history of behavioral issues. I had been working with the student on strategies to improve his comprehension, that day’s lesson had included prefixes. The student had been working diligently, and independently, for a sizeable amount of time when I offered a casual piece of praise. “Good, it looks like you’re starting to understand. Keep working hard with those prefixes, you’ll be glad you did when you need to use them again in college.” I will never forget the expression on that student’s face or the way his eyes lit up when he exclaimed, “You think I’m going to *college*!” My simple, off-hand comment energized my student in an indescribable way. Other teachers reported that he spent the rest of the week proudly proclaiming to staff and students alike, “Mrs. Digby says I can go to college!” That single instance of motivation is my reason for teaching. I want to approach my teaching journey with patience, understanding and, above all, enthusiasm and a belief in my student’s success.
What does the Noyce program mean to you:
The Noyce program has provided me with a way to realize my teaching goals while surrounded by a community of like-minded people. As important as this community is now, I believe its value will only continue to grow as I step into the role as teacher fully and experience difficulties that I will want to discuss with my peers. The focus on STEM has been a huge asset in my teacher education, and I’m proud to share the techniques I am learning with past colleagues in the educational field. The financial aspect of the Noyce Scholarship has made my graduate school aspirations possible. I can now focus my efforts solely on what is important, learning and exploring this profession as I journey towards becoming a teacher. With assistance from Noyce program, this would not have been possible.