September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

An Evening Conversation on Leadership

Posted: Thursday, December 1st, 2011

by Jeff Bradbury and Dean Gilbert

As we all know the baby boomer generation is on the cusp of retiring enormous numbers of people from the American workforce, and this includes teachers.  One important fact that has not been lost on CSTA is that as many people leave the teaching profession, there will be huge voids in leadership positions at all levels as well.  The CSTA Board of Directors has been quite concerned about this and has been asking: “Who will replace this retiring generation on the board of CSTA?”  Who is going to replace leaders in schools, districts, county offices of education, education departments and statewide positions?  Who will step up and be mentors to the incoming younger generation of teachers?

As a result of many hours of discussion, CSTA leaders and some friends of CSTA decided to host “An Evening Conversation on Leadership” as a 5-hour pre-conference event the night before the 2011 Science Education Conference in Pasadena.

Although every person in CSTA leadership from the executive director to the president to past board members firmly agreed that we need to go forward with the conference, there was one glaring problem: We had no budget!  More on that later…that was not going to stop us.

The “Evening Conversation” planning team, consisting of a former CSTA board president, a retired Rockwell/NASA engineer (hey, he helped put men on the Moon, he could probably help us with our problem!), and a former CSTA board member, decided it is of first importance to listen to the younger generation, to hear their concerns, listen to their needs, and understand their values.  This significantly helped the team shape the evening’s proceedings.  Since this had never really been done before, the planning team wondered if there would be any interest.  We decided to have a “pizza night round table discussion” with younger teachers to help us plan.  We sent out an invitation to nine people we had never met before, wondering if they would even read an email from complete strangers, let alone join us for dinner.  Nevertheless six of the nine young teachers showed up with great hunger, and it was not an appetite just for pizza.  They were as concerned and interested in leadership as we, the planning team.  Some of the focus group participants drove over 25 miles in rush hour traffic.  I guess we can conclude that people want to know more about the issue of leadership!

The “Conversation” started with “participants” and “mentors” in table groups working through an activity discussing and coming to consensus on the most important characteristics of a leader. This activity was followed by a talk by Nikki DiRanna, a young leader in education talking about issues she faces everyday as an administrator.  She wisely mixed the theory of leadership with its practice.

We continued our conversation over dinner.  Now, the reader might wonder how we paid for dinner for 55 people when convention center meals can cost $40 a plate.  Well we begged Chipotle and they came through by donating burritos, chips, and guacamole. Dessert was homemade cookies.  It can be done on no budget!

After dinner, we experienced team and leadership building activities (it got a little loud at times), followed by a panel of educational leaders sharing their “Personal Story of Leadership”.

George Howell, a teacher-participant from Cathedral City High School reflects on how “the pre-conference allowed for a great discussion about teaching our current and future students.  I felt like after the conference I walked away a better educator.  My belief is that everything falls back on leadership and this discussion made my belief even more concrete and valid in my mind.”  Marian Murphy Shaw, one of the planners and facilitators for the evening states, “it impressed me to see educators attend an event that was not necessarily a familiar topic, on a Thursday night.  It became apparent that the relationship each guest had with the “mentor” who invited them is what made the difference.  Multiple times the guest teachers commented that they did not see themselves as leaders, but by the end of the evening they were reassuring each other that someone saw it in you, that’s why you are here.”

So many great experiences shared, we are already talking about holding a Conversation next year in San Jose.

After a fulfilling time of discussion, interaction, personal growth, and making new friends, we came away with some conclusions.

1) There is a tremendous hunger for knowledge and skill development regarding leadership.  A few people drove all the way from San Diego at the end of their school day in L.A. traffic to come to the “Conversation” and then hopped in their cars and drove all the way back home. People are willing to make sacrifices to learn and grow.

2) The younger generation is not apathetic about taking the lead. They want to be part of something meaningful and they want to make a contribution. What they need is the confidence, tools and mentoring to get into the game.

3) After the focus group, listening to many discussions at the “Conversation” on values of leadership, listening to energetic Nikki DiRanna, talking over dinner, and the activities of the evening, one truth came through loud and clear: Leadership is all about Relationship.

Leadership is not primarily about issues, tasks, projects, or programs.  Leadership is primarily about people.  As eloquently stated by Nikki DiRanna, “the best leadership advice I ever got was to figure out what my leadership style would be. As a young leader I am learning that leadership is all about building, developing, and nurturing relationships.”

This next generation has ideas and an optimism and energy that is just waiting to be tapped!  Many potential leaders simply need encouragement to set them on their way. Maybe, just maybe, the next decade or two will see a renaissance of leadership and education.

Jeff Bradbury is a professor of chemistry at Cerritos College and Dean Gilbert is science consultant with the Los Angeles County Office of Education and is CSTA’s region 3 director.


Written by Dean Gilbert

Dean Gilbert

Dean Gilbert is the science coordinator for the Orange County Department of Education, and a member of CSTA.

One Response

  1. Excellent article, especially as it pertains to leadership style. It’s easy to determine your natural leadership style via a psychometric instrument – the one I prefer is based on neuroscience. From there, determine how to lead from ‘outside your strengths’ by developing the skills to overcome your weaknesses.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.