Noyce Scholar Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: M.S. in Botany; B.S./B.A. English and Environmental Science
Subject area(s) and grade level teaching focus: Biology, Broadfield Science, Chemistry, Earth Science, grades 6-12
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Fifth year or post-baccalaureate Noyce scholar
Name of Noyce institution:
UW-Oshkosh act! program
Current academic or teaching status:
Outreach specialist at UW-Madison; will student teach in spring
School and school district:
Madison Metropolian School District
I always loved messing around outside as a kid. I had some vague notion that if I studied biology, I could be like the scientists on the nature shows that I watched on public television, and maybe help save the planet. I did grow up to be a biologist, and even had a chance to assist in some mark-and-release studies (though I mostly worked with plants). But I realized that saving the planet is a lot more complicated than I thought, and ultimately involves people. So I hung up my quadrats, and instead of hiking to research plots, started spending time in the woods with kids and teachers. I currently work in science outreach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I teach a service-learning course on leading After School Science Clubs, and am very much looking forward to becoming a teacher and taking my own students outside.
Why do you want to teach:
I have always loved teaching, whether in a museum, as a graduate teaching assistant, or as a college instructor. Cultivating students’ love of learning, empowering them to think critically, and building communities of students who learn from each other is so rewarding, and so much fun! I love the challenge of teaching–every day and every group of students is new, so I never get bored and am constantly learning. As an ecologist, it’s also so important to me to help people become scientifically literate. I realized early in my career as a scientist that we won’t get very far toward solving environmental problems unless our society as a whole is better prepared to participate in these issues.
Describe a memorable teaching experience:
Early in my grad school years, I was a TA for a non-majors course in ecology, which was an absolute blast. We had education majors, engineers, poets–pretty much a little bit of everybody in one class, talking about environmental issues. One of my discussion sections was especially lively and got really into Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (one of my favorite books). A student in the group said he would really love to visit the Leopold ‘shack’ where the story is set, which is about an hour outside Madison. So I set up an optional field trip to the Leopold Shack, and a group of us set out on a snowy day to see this landmark in ecological restoration and help flag garlic mustard populations. I still have photos from that trip, and the students on that trip became friends. It was so wonderful to be able to create a memorable learning experience and share a place I love with students, who were motivated to take time out of their schedules to go on this optional trip. Being with such motivated people makes me feel more optimistic about the future!
What does the Noyce program mean to you:
The Noyce program has made it possible for me to become a teacher. I had explored various post-baccalaureate and alternative teacher certification programs, but none of them offered the level of flexibility and financial support that UW-Oshkosh and the Noyce program did. Without the Noyce program, I would not have had the resources or the non-traditional student support that I needed in order to pursue teacher certification while working full-time. The program really lowered the barriers to help me make my dream of becoming a teacher a reality.