September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

CSTA Board of Directors 2016-2018 Candidates

Posted: Monday, March 14th, 2016

The Nominations Committee of the California Science Teachers Association presents the following individuals for election to the CSTA Board of Directors for the 2016-2018 term. Voting will open on April 15, 2016 and close on May 17, 2016.

The election is being conducted electronically. CSTA members will be sent links to the online ballot via email. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who requested a paper ballot will be mailed a ballot.

The candidates for election for the 2016-2018 are:

4 Year College Director (1 candidate)
Jennie Guzman

Jennie Guzman

Jennie Guzman

Jennie has experience in K-12 science education and teaching experience in the college classroom. In the classroom, she has taught over 15 upper physics lecture and laboratory courses. She has participated extensively in many science education initiatives, including Expanding Your Horizons (EYH), physics course redesign at the college level, STEM Teacher and Researcher (STAR) Program, STEM West Institute, The Integrated Middle School Science (IMSS) Partnership, and Science Partnership for Instructional Innovation (SPFII). Each of these programs targets science education at different stages of the science education curriculum, ranging from recruitment and science literacy for middle-school students (EYH) to professional development for science educators (STAR, IMSS, SPFII, STEM West Institute).

As our society becomes more and more reliant on technology, it is ever more important that educators instill scientific literacy in their students. Unfortunately, many students tend to avoid STEM classes as these have a reputation for being “difficult.” My own experience has led me to believe, however, that with the right techniques, these students can not only succeed in the science classroom, but also develop an appreciation for scientific thinking more generally. I believe a key component to being an effective educator is to avoid complacency by constantly making adjustments based on experience and awareness of science education research. The traditional style of teaching physics (or any subject) is predicated on the idea that knowledge can be transferred orally. As educators, we need to ask ourselves “how does learning take place?” and “what kind of teaching can support that learning?” for all levels of learning. I believe we need to shift from the paradigm that the instructor is the transmitter of knowledge to one where the students are the generator of their own understanding.

As an educator and a member of the scientific community, my vision of science education closely resembles CSTAs mission and goals. I think it is essential that we help our students and the community to become fluent in scientific reasoning. We need to inspire curiosity and excitement for learners at all levels by transforming the science classroom and providing opportunities for the community to learn about science in their everyday life. CSTA serves a pivotal role in this process and I would be excited to be a part of it. I envision CSTA as providing many opportunities for professional development opportunities for K-University science educators through workshops and conferences. These opportunities are especially critical with the implementation of the NGSS in the science classroom as they provide a means for science educators to exchange resources and ideas and build a sense of community. I also see CSTA as an advocate for science educators at the state level, ensuring that the interests of science educators are well known to policy-makers and state-level legislators.

High School Director (1 candidate)

Toby Spencer

Toby Spencer

Toby Spencer

Toby has taught secondary science for 17 years in most curricular areas, including biology, medical science, physiology, Earth science, chemistry, physical science, and math. He currently chairs the NEA Science Caucus, which he founded and organized nationally over the past 7 years. Through that work, he has partnered with the NABT and NCSE to bring expert speakers and professional exhibitions to their national convening. Toby also serves as Vice Chair of the CTA Career Technical Education Committee, where they create policy to direct their legislative lobbyists. He facilitates NGSS workshops statewide for CTA, locally for his district, and once at NSTA in Long Beach last winter (in partnership with UC Davis). He represent CTA on the CA Alliance for NGSS, a statewide partnership of educators, industry, and government working to transform science education statewide. Toby was awarded BP’s A+ for Energy Grant as well as a SEPA scholarship to their national conference. He helped develop an online biostatistics curriculum at the Center for Biophotonics at UC Davis. Recently, he helped draft a brief on science argumentation for the CDE, to be posted on their Common Core website. Currently, he is a semi-finalist for the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship. Toby is a current member of CSTA, he has written a leadership article for the CSTA newsletter, and has attended several conferences which includes bringing his student-teacher to the Sacramento Conference in October 2015.

All students bring to the classroom fierce curiosity, the sustaining force of science. Science educators’ primary mission is to cultivate students’ innate wonder, which builds scientific skills and knowledge through iterations of discovery and failure. Science by slideshow or text alone is stifling, if not dangerous, for it saps curiosity and imaginative ingenuity. We must shift to teaching students the full range of science practices through authentic lab experiences. The NGSS will prepare our young scientists of the 21st century if implemented and supported in every California classroom. It would be my honor to help CSTA lead the shift to student-centered science and 21st century skills of NGSS.

As the premiere professional resource for and voice of California science educators, CSTA must continue to provide world-class workshops, field learning experiences, and conferences. As an NGSS leader, CSTA will advocate for additional STEM and Career Technical Education funding through grants and new funding. Furthermore, CSTA should strengthen its resources and guidance for modifying K-12 districts’ LCAP language to allocate funds specifically for teaching science.



Upper Elementary Director  (2 candidates)

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne has been working as a science specialist at Meadows Elementary School (Manhattan Beach USD) since 2008. She initiated and continues to chair a school-wide Science Night every spring. Joanne also is the science chair of the elementary school science specialists and leads monthly collaboration meetings within her district. Joanne was selected as the Lead Science Specialist for her district in 2013. She is a member of CSTA and NSTA and has presented workshops at conferences for both organizations. She was elected to this position on the CSTA Board of Directors in 2014. She also serves as co-chair of CSTA’s e-Communications Committee.

Never before has there been such an opportunity for students to truly learn how to love science. NASA is working on sending teams to Mars, new elements are being officially named, and breakthroughs are being made in the world of cancer treatment. It is my mission to get elementary students inspired, motivated, and geared towards being a pioneer in the branch of science that they find most fascinating. Every time I meet with my students, I am hopefully building a love of science and inspiring them to push forward towards more discoveries and breakthroughs in the world of science.

With California implementing NGSS, CSTA is vital for science teachers to get information, lessons, and professional development. I get inspired by CSTA’s mission of promoting high-quality science education- knowing the extremely varied populations within the state of California, for an organization to successfully take on that challenge is amazing. Neil DeGrasse Tyson said recently that “Each generation benefits from what previous generations have learned.” CSTA takes full advantage of that belief, by having and utilizing teachers from all parts of their career, from college students thinking about becoming a teacher, to teachers that have retired after 30+ years of educating students. CSTA is a phenomenal resource for science educators, and I feel I can bring additional energy, ideas, inspiration, and techniques to the Board of Directors, and through them, to the educators of California.

Mena Parmar

Mena Parmar

Mena Parmar

Mena is an experienced Elementary Classroom Teacher and Elementary Science Specialist in Fremont. Her work with the Exploratorium in San Francisco, as a Master Teacher with Bay Sci Champions, has given her the opportunity to collaborate with master teachers from all around the SF Bay Area. Mena’s experience as an Instructional Case Field Tester and an NGSS Instructional Innovator has given her insight into the shifts required in Elementary Science. Her professional knowledge as an Elementary Science Coordinator for Alameda County Office of Education has provided her with experience in many different 3-5 classrooms across many different districts in our county. She plays a role as a PD provider to develop her ability to lead colleagues through instructional shifts successfully. Mena was a presenter at the 2015 CSTA conference in Sacramento and a CSTA Leadership Nominee in 2015.

Science education must prepare all students, to be 21st century citizens who are scientifically literate, can make informed decisions, discuss science and engineering issues and are careful consumers of scientific and technological information related to their everyday lives. Science teachers need to create an environment where all students are excited to learn and have appreciation for the beauty and wonder of the scientific world. Teachers must provide opportunities for all students to be engaged and motivated to dig deeper into science concepts. In order for all students to have the skills required to enter careers of their choice, science concepts must be organized systematically from PK through College in a way that keeps students natural wonder alive. CA NGSS Framework Instructional Segments and vignettes provide a window for teachers to look inside a NGSS classroom. CA NGSS helps to assist teachers with the vision that will require teachers to undergo appropriate PD and develop suitable implementation strategies. NGSS will teach students how to be scientists, not to just read/memorize what scientists have done.

CSTA must be the guiding force to ensure CA NGSS is successfully implemented throughout CA, so all students in CA are provided with the opportunities to become scientifically literate. CSTA must reach out to all elementary multiple subject classroom teachers to lead them in the successful implementation of CA NGSS and increase their membership. This leadership should include windows into CA NGSS aligned transition plans, pedagogy, lessons, and instructional segments.

Region 2 Director (2 candidates)

Marie Bacher

Marie Bacher

Marie Bacher

In Marie’s 25 year career as an educator, she has taught almost every grade level from preschool through 8th grade. For the past 16 years, she has been a Science Teacher On Special Assignment (TOSA) for the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD). In addition, she served as an administrator for the Santa Clara County of Education as a co-director of environmental education at Walden West Camp. Currently in SCUSD, Marie plans, leads and facilitates the implementation of NGSS K-12 and coordinates the district science fair. She is the point person of the BaySci Leadership Team for her school district and works with BaySci elementary science teacher leaders who help lead science at their own sites. She is also part of South Bay FOSS Collaborative. Marie has been a workshop presenter at CSTA conferences. She holds a Master’s in Education in Administration and Supervision from San Jose State University.

Science education and the role of science education in society is to create a scientifically literate community that can make decisions based on the evidence that is known currently. I believe that science education is about stewardship and sustainability of our global community. We all need to take a part in understanding that everything is connected and that decisions that we make as consumers impacts our environment. Based on this overarching philosophy, the practice of Science teaching becomes the challenge of fostering the curiosity in children about the natural world the around them. As a teacher, I work to elicit questions from the children about personally engaging experiences so that together we can negotiate how to gather data and design an experiment that makes sense to their level of cognitive sophistication. As a science teacher I facilitate students’ development of models so that they can explore, experiment and explain their understanding. Then with solid conceptual understanding students can then be guided back to applying that knowledge to problems facing the global community.

CSTA is an entity that provides resources for science teachers, administrators and pre-service teachers. I believe CSTA provides, inspires and educates all teachers about the cutting edge and best practices that science teaching has to offer.

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

As a program director at the National Center for Science Education, Minda worked with teachers nationally and in California to teach socially contentious, but scientifically sound topics like evolution and climate change. This involves regular outreach and support, as well as professional development and training. As Region 2 Director, Minda has worked with teachers in her region to connect them to professional development opportunities and other science events. She has also presented at local teacher conferences and represented CSTA there. As a member of the Membership committee and Publications committee, she has taken on the task of working to increase and retain membership, as well as work on the monthly CSTA publication, California Classroom Science. 

Teachers are at the front lines of science education and in my mind, the most important group in the scientific enterprise. Without teachers we would have no scientists, doctors or even science-savvy citizens. I believe very strongly in the power of science and evidence to both understand and improve our world. It is teachers who bring this incredibly important material to students, help them translate it into their worlds and bring it value in their daily lives. Without their hard work, California and the nation would be at a loss.

CSTA is one of the greatest science teacher associations in the country. I’ve been impressed by the energy and enthusiasm the board brings to their work, but also the value they place on science education and teachers. I believe that CSTA does a remarkable job at engaging and listening to science teachers in the state, and I feel honored to have been able to work with teachers and CSTA over the past 2 years as the Region 2 Director. My hope for CSTA is that it will continue to work to present the vision of science teachers in the state and advocate strongly for their needs.

Treasurer (1 candidate) 

Virginia (Gini) Vandergon


Virginia (Gini) Vandergon

Virginia (Gini) began her teaching career as a high school biology teacher in 1984. During the last year of her high school teaching career, she was the science department chair. During this time she also taught at the community college level. While working on her graduate degree at UC Davis, she was a teaching assistant and eventually became the head teaching assistant in the Animal Science Department.  She earned her doctoral degree in Genetics at University of California, Riverside (UCR) where again she was a TA. She received numerous small grants during her graduate career and was very active in the Graduate Student Association both at UCD and UCR. She is currently a Full Professor of Biology at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). At CSUN, she was hired into a dual position in which she was expected to teach and do research in genetics and serve as the K-12 science education liaison. In her current role as a genetics professor, she has a research lab with graduate students. In her role as a K-12 science education liaison, she teaches pre-service teachers in science and co-teaches in education. In this position, she works closely with faculty in their college as well as faculty in the College of Education on issues and curriculum related to science education. Outside of the University, she has been a PI (currently) and Co-PI on the San Fernando Valley Science Project for 14 years.  She has been a PI or Co-PI on numerous other grants for the past 15 years totaling over 4 million dollars. She has been a member of the Society for the Study of Evolution, Botanic Society of America, Sigma Xi, Association for Science Teacher Education, National Science Teachers Association, and California Science Teachers Association to name a few. In 2004, she was awarded the University award for Visionary Service Learning. Virginia feels she is qualified for the Treasurer position as she handles most of the grant finances and have controlled finances for many clubs and scout programs. She has a minor in mathematics and a background in teaching secondary school math.

Teaching today’s students in the STEM career pipeline is exciting and challenging. My priority for these students is to show them that science is a process of discovery where one finds beauty in the interconnectedness of math, engineering, and science. I strive to show them the critical importance of public science literacy. With the adoption of NGSS we are entering a new era where science can be taught the way it is performed.

I am an ardent supporter of STEM education and enjoy exploring best practices to reach ALL learners. CSTA’s mission is to create a community that supports passionate life-long learning in science, and this aligns with my philosophy. The primary challenge for CSTA will be to integrate NGSS into K-16 curriculum. As a member of the writing team of the NGSS frameworks for the state, I am deeply involved in this work. It is an exciting time for CSTA to be involved in framework, curriculum, and assessment development, especially as the nation looks to California as a leader in NGSS education.

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.

One Response

  1. Thanks to these awesome CSTA members for putting their names forward to run for the Board of Directors. CSTA is only as good as our members… which means we’re pretty darned good!

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.