Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S., Biology; B.S., Secondary Education; M.S., ESOL
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Noyce Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
Fort Hays State University
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Western Plains USD 106, Ransom, KS; Mathematics 7th and 8th grade, Algebra I, Geometry, College Algebra Prep, Personal Finance, and Math Interventions
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I always knew I wanted to go into the sciences. I started working on a physics degree with the intention of becoming an engineer, but then I missed the biological sciences so debated becoming a medical doctor. Growing up as a Kansas farm girl and being so dependent on weather and climate patterns, I also thought about switching my focus from engineering to meteorology. Finally, realizing I could continue to be a lifelong learner AND be able to focus on all the aspects of science that I loved, I decided to become a high school science teacher. The Noyce program at Fort Hays State solidified my choice by offering me an ability to pay for college and graduate debt free.
Describe your current teaching assignment.
Currently I am in my second year of teaching all the junior high and high school mathematics courses at Western Plains USD 106, a very small school district in rural Kansas. The district includes students from 5 towns and rural areas and averages 10 students per grade level. The southern half of our district is majority Hispanic and the northern half is majority Caucasian. I previously taught high school science for 5 years in a neighboring, slightly larger district.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
The Noyce program at Fort Hays State prepared us for teaching in a small community where we would most likely teach a wide age range of courses and potentially a different one each hour of the day. That is exactly where I find myself at present.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
My Noyce program focused heavily on learning to adapt to the community in which I live while also being supportive of my students and their needs. It is awesome to live in a small community like my own, to get to watch my students learn and grow over the years, and to have both classroom and extra-curricular relationships with them. As I mentioned earlier, the southern half of our district is majority Hispanic. I earned my Master’s degree in ESOL Education in order to better serve my students who are bilingual and to keep up to date with best practices for teaching students who are English Language Learners.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
I am in regular contact with my Noyce program facilitators at Fort Hays State who host professional development sessions throughout the year. I continue to learn new content and pedagogy as I attend many of these professional development events.
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?
Two years ago, if you would have asked me if I would ever consider teaching high school math, I would have laughed. Today, I am teaching math to 7th-12th graders and absolutely loving it. I would not have ever considered it without the training and encouragement from my fellow Noyce Scholars and instructors at Fort Hays State. In the future, I would be happy to take on leadership roles outside of the classroom, but right now I want to spend my time with my four young children.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
Speaking at the 2023 Noyce Summit in Washington, DC as a member of the Voices from the Field panel has been a highlight of my teaching career! I also started a blog about teaching, smalltownstemteacher.com, and really enjoy writing about my experiences and sharing ideas with my peers. I would like to recommend two resources that I’ve found helpful as a new STEM educator: Modeling Curriculum (science focused) from the American Modeling Teachers Association and Building Thinking Classrooms (math focused) by Peter Liljedahl.
For information about research and practice in rural education, check out these resources: