Noyce Scholar Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: Biology (Swarthmore College), M.Sc. Interdisiplinary Ecology (University of Florida)
Subject area(s) and grade level teaching focus: Math, Chemistry, and Biology, grades 8-12
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Noyce Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
University of La Verne
Current academic or teaching status:
School and school district:
Claremont Unified School District
After graduating from Swarthmore College in 2003, I traveled to Malawi (Southern Africa) where I served as an Environment Volunteer in the US Peace Corps. I worked with Malawian youths and adults to educate them about sustainable opportunities for economic advancement. In 2007, I began working as a lab manager at an ecology research lab at Florida State University, and in 2009 began graduate school at the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment. My graduate research focused on environmental communication and decision making with an emphasis on integrated conservation and development in the tropics. After earning my MSc in Interdisciplinary Ecology I moved to Southern California where I began work as a group process facilitator and team-building consultant. I trained with Ken Cloke at the Center for Dispute Resolution in Santa Monica and have consulted for both private and non-profit organizations in the area. I have presented on my approach to experiential learning at conferences for the International Association for Positive Psychology, the International Association for Public Participation, and the Environmental and Public Policy Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution.
Why do you want to teach:
While working as an organizational consultant, I found myself getting more and more involved in education. At first I was tutoring two elementary school students in reading a couple of times a week. Then I taught a semester-long improv class for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. I began substituting in our local district and started teaching a few classes per month as my schedule allowed. What I like about teaching is the opportunity it gives me to contribute to a better world. When I teach, the learning atmosphere I create can be just as important as the material that we cover. When students experience the power that comes from focusing, setting goals, and reflecting on their own experiences, they are usually inspired to accomplish more complicated tasks. When I can encourage students to follow their intrinsic curiosity and their innate desires to contribute, they often surprise us all with what they are able to accomplish.
Describe a memorable teaching experience:
I remember tutoring a 5th grader in reading. I met with him twice a week for almost an entire year. When we met together, he would usually try to talk about something unrelated to his reading. Soccer and Xbox were favorite topics. I had inconsistent success getting him to focus and actually read. It felt like most of the time he was annoyed at having to step out of his classroom and focus on a task. In our final session I was looking for a way to learn from this experience. I gave this 5th grader a piece of paper and asked him to write down one thing that he liked and one thing that he didn’t like about our work together. I was expecting to get back a paper covered with some line drawings of Xbox characters. Instead, in over-sized handwriting he wrote, “Thank you for coming to take the time to read with us. I appreciate your help. Sorry if I was disrespectful.” I was struck by the power of the words that student hadn’t been able to say but had been able to write down on paper. What was he learning from our time together that had nothing to do with sounding out words or inferring a character’s intentions? The power of this moment stuck with me; it sparked my own curiosity about the effect that I have on students without realizing it. I’m drawn to teaching because I’m finding that to do well I have to embrace all of the things I don’t know how to do.
What does the Noyce program mean to you:
I’m coming into the La Verne Noyce grant just as it is ending. I’m excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity to help fund my education. I also appreciate the community of practice I’ve been welcomed into. It’s exciting to know that as I grow into my way own teaching style, there will be knowledgeable people who have gone before who can guide me along the way.