Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S. Fisheries & Wildlife, specialization in Environmental Studies, Michigan State University M.S., Science Teaching (General Science); M.S., Education (Secondary Education)
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Name of Noyce institution:
Portland State University
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Madison High School, Portland Public Schools, Portland, OR, Forensic Science and Chemistry
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I went into teaching later in life, after deciding that I wanted to share my love of science and the outdoors with youth. I started graduate school with a goal of becoming an environmental educator until the Noyce Program gave me the opportunity to get a teaching credential. Now, I am passionate about encouraging underrepresented groups to pursue careers in STEM fields and teaching students critical thinking skills so that they can be informed global citizens.
Describe your current teaching assignment.
I served as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow [link to Einstein bio] at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC during the 2018-2019 school year. At NASA, I work with the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to create curriculum and advise their Office of STEM Engagement efforts.
At Madison High School in Portland, I taught Forensic Science and Chemistry for nine years. Madison is a dynamic urban school which is often called Portland Public Schools’ “Best Kept Secret” because of its caring staff and innovative teaching and learning opportunities for students. Nonetheless, it has unique challenges and those associated with being an urban school–including a student population that is struggling with economic insecurity, homelessness, and recent immigrant and refugee status. On the last state report card, 56% of our students were eligible for free and reduced lunch, 39% were English Language Learners, and 35 separate languages were spoken at home. Teaching in this environment can be challenging, but the unique diversity of Madison makes for a dynamic and enriching environment for both students and staff.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
The Noyce program provided a solid foundation in current educational research and instilled the importance of inquiry-based pedagogy and culturally-appropriate teaching methods. For example, part of the program requirements included a course that covered action research and another where we learned more about the culture and traditions of ethnic/religious groups in our area. I also had the opportunity to broaden my content knowledge by taking several graduate-level science courses which were incredibly valuable. Finally, the supportive cohort of teachers in the program and the opportunities to collaborate and participate in research groups and seminars while in graduate school were instrumental in encouraging collaborative practice and reflection.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
Yes, the teaching preparation program provided a foundation in best practices for diverse student needs and the desire to learn more as my career progressed. In particular, I remember a former professor named Ken Peterson who taught us the fundamentals of connecting to students from all backgrounds in our Classroom Management course. The year-long student teaching experience was also an important part of feeling prepared to teach in a variety of school settings.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
I have been able to implement an inquiry-based, hands-on approach to learning science and rely on best-practices to inform my teaching. I also have used my science content knowledge to broaden and diversify curriculum for my students and provide them with opportunities to conduct their own research. Finally, the Noyce program instilled the importance of professional growth and reflection, and I continue to seek out new opportunities for professional development and innovative teaching strategies. You can read my blog, https://msstagner.com, for my recommendations about educational resources. Here are a few:
- National Science Teachers Association – https://www.nsta.org/
- NGSS Example Lessons – https://www.nextgenscience.org/resources/examples-quality-ngss-design
- STEM Teaching Tools: http://stemteachingtools.org/
- Research Experiences for Teachers (RET): https://www.nsf.gov/eng/eec/ret/search.jsp
- Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship: https://science.energy.gov/wdts/einstein/
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?
Because of the Noyce Program, I felt well-prepared and confident enough to take on leadership roles and try new things soon after I started teaching. I served on committees and planning groups in my district and state around grading practices, course sequencing, and best practices in science teaching and learning. I was Co-Department Lead at Madison and an elected member of the Oregon Science Teachers Association [link to website] Board. I have presented at several local and state conferences sharing resources and teaching strategies with other educators. I was also an early-adopter of technology in the classroom, choosing to flip my classroom several years ago, integrate digital learning platforms, use digital tools for data collection and labs, and use classroom websites, blogs, and other student engagement techniques to share information with students and families. Finally, I developed the Forensic Science class for my school 5 years ago, collaborated on an updated district-supported curriculum for chemistry, and co-taught a class focused on college reading for students taking advanced coursework who struggle with reading comprehension.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
I have been incredibly grateful for the professional recognition I have received since I started teaching. Some of the highlights include being elected to serve on the Oregon Science Teachers Association’s Board of Directors and receiving a National Education Association grant to build a greenhouse and support garden education at my school. I am also a recipient of the Murdock Partners in Science Grant which provides teachers the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research at a university and funding for classroom materials and professional development. Finally, this year I was awarded an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship in Washington, DC and earned my National Board Teaching Certification in adolescent/young adult chemistry.