Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S., Chemistry and M.S., Chemistry, Sam Houston State University
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Master Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk, Houston, TX, 7th Grade Scientific Decision-Making
What made you decide to become a teacher?
In the back of mind, I always wanted to be a teacher. Throughout my education I have had some great teachers and some not so great teachers. The memories of those great teachers stuck with me and helped to influence my choice of profession. After graduating from Rice University, I had every intention of getting into industry and working in a lab. That changed when a former principal of mine approached me after I had graduated with my master’s and asked if I wanted to teach Chemistry at his high school. He said the world needed people like me in the teaching profession. I decided to give it a shot and immediately fell in love with teaching and with helping to bring my love of science to others. I am so glad I made that choice.
Describe your current teaching assignment.
I teach a 7th grade science elective called “Scientific Decision-Making” at the Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk, a Title I campus educating low-income minority students in the Houston Independent School District. The school’s mission is to engage every student in a rigorous and integrated health science curriculum. The course I teach uses inquiry and project-based learning. It shows students how to ask their own questions, make observations, collect and analyze data, and generate evidence-based conclusions. This class is SO much fun to teach, and the students really enjoy it. They struggle at first but slowly get used to how it works. The students do two dissections: a sheep heart and a sheep kidney and study the anatomy and function of each to better understand the human body and diseases. The first semester culminates in a science fair project that every 7th grader completes—giving them the opportunity to showcase their skills with the scientific method.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
I decided to apply for the Noyce Master Teaching fellow program because of its emphasis on inquiry. I love integrating inquiry into classroom projects and jumped at the opportunity to join a program that would help me find more ways to use it. Last summer, the Noyce program had an “inquiry in science” professional development course where I learned some valuable skills that helped to improve the way I was already using inquiry in my classroom. What I learned helped to improve my class and resulted in more inquiry-based instruction which benefited the students.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
The Noyce program has implemented some culturally relevant professional development, but it has not been extensive enough to impact my teaching. I had attended some professional development activities on culturally relevant pedagogy in the past so did have some tools that I used in my classroom such as “teach back” and “cooperative grouping”. “Teach back” asks students to take a concept and teach it back to the class in the way that works best for them. When students are able to do this, they can talk about the material from their cultural viewpoint which benefits them and the other students who may share the same background.
In order to reach all students, I often implement lessons and examples that all can relate to. To do this means that I must know my students well–their backgrounds and where they come from. I also offer them a wide variety of resources to use. One way I get to know my students is through a survey they complete at the beginning of the year. It allows my students to tell me more about themselves and their backgrounds. My favorite question is “what are three things you want me to know about you?” I get so much useful information from that one question. It helps me to frame how I teach and approach some students. This year I plan to implement a few questions that focus on their specific feelings about science; I am interested to see how that will work out.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
I try to use what I have learned during the Noyce program in my classroom, in particular, those strategies gained during the meetings/trainings. They have been useful for engaging all students and getting everyone to participate in some way. One strategy I use quite often that I learned last summer is the 3-2-1 strategy. This usually comes at the end of a lesson or unit where the students write down three things they learned, two questions (or ideas) they still have, and one thing they are still wondering about. I love this strategy because it is a good way to see how the students felt about the lesson and to clear up any questions or misconceptions they might still have. In addition, during the inquiry institute last summer, we worked through an activity that utilized the process skills involved in science. I loved this activity so much that I plan to use it this next school year and also to add a piece to really pinpoint some science concepts my students are struggling with.
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 am learning how to be a teacher-leader. This means that I am taking on leadership roles while also remaining a classroom teacher. The Noyce program has played a huge role in my leadership development. I attended a summer training that taught us how to be leaders from the classroom (teacher leaders) and about conducting results-based meetings. We learned what makes a good teacher leader. This prompted me to seek out some leadership opportunities on my campus. I became Science Department Chair and Grade Level Chair for the 7th grade team. Once I was in these positions, I was able to utilize a skill we learned in the summer training that centered around results-based meetings—I was able to conduct meetings efficiently.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
After one year in the Noyce program, I became the Teacher of the Year for my campus and then was selected as Secondary Teacher of the Year for the entire Houston ISD.
I would like to recommend two books: Every Teacher a Leader: Developing the Needed Dispositions, Knowledge, and Skills for Teacher Leadership by Barbara B. Levin and Lynne R. Schrum and Teacher Leader by Roland S. Barth.