September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Happy Retirement Dear Friend!

Posted: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

It is with mixed emotions that I am announcing the retirement of our executive director, Christine Bertrand, effective March 31, 2011. As president of CSTA I don’t know what we are going to do without her! She has been with us for just over 15 years! Needless to say, she will be missed. Most of you know her and have seen her at our state conferences, but maybe you don’t know just how much she has done for our organization. She has had a myriad of responsibilities, too many to mention, that have impacted CSTA in a memorable and meaningful way. What follows barely scratches the surface of all that Christine has done over the years, but bear with me as I make mention of some of them.

As executive director she served as the chief executive officer of the California Science Teachers Association, she was responsible to the executive committee and board of directors for the effective conduct of the affairs of the association.  She recommended and participated in board formulation of association mission, goals, and objectives and related policies. Within that framework she, planned, organized, coordinated, and directed the programs, activities, and staff of the CSTA, including but not limited to…

  • Formulating and recommending basic policies and programs, including financial and budgeting programs, for approval by the board of directors; participating in development of CSTA’s mission, goals, and objectives.
  • Creating an appropriate image for CSTA by providing leadership to members and staff, developing and communicating the mission and philosophy of the association, and conveying a clear sense of its goals and objectives; representing the association and leadership at meetings and conferences.
  • Developing and maintaining an appropriate budgetary procedure in concert with the treasurer and finance committee; planning, recommending for approval, and operating within an annual budget; overseeing the authorized and proper expenditure of funds; pursuing financial benefits to CSTA by soliciting grants to fund programs; executing bylaws provisions with respect to audits and financial reporting.
  • Researching and tracking legislation and state policies that affect science education in the state; advocating for CSTA’s positions with state policymakers and legislators.
  • Promoting interest and active participation in activities among the membership, and encouraging proper communication of activities of the board and committees.
  • Organizing and providing for the election of the board of directors.
  • Overseeing the California Classroom Science (CCS), the California Journal of Science Education, and other CSTA publications, and supervising future member service programs as approved by the board of directors; writing for, soliciting content for, and editing CCS, the Journal and other publications; preparing electronic formats for publications.
  • Overseeing the California Science Education Conference as well as participating in the planning and execution of the conference.
  • Providing liaison and staff support to the executive committee and other committees and chairs, to help them properly fulfill their functions; seeing that committee decisions and recommendations are submitted to the board of directors for approval.
  • Developing board and executive committee meeting agendas for approval by the president; planning meetings of the executive committee and board of directors, ensuring continuity of actions of the board by analyzing minutes of each meeting to determine suggested courses of action for executive committee, board, association, and staff.
  • Ensuring the legal integrity of CSTA, compliance with non-profit corporation’s laws, and conformance with generally accepted principles of association management.
  • Keeping the board of directors and executive committee fully informed on the conditions and operations of the association and on all important factors influencing them.
  • Serving as the CSTA liaison to NSTA and other state and national groups.

As I listed these tasks I was once again overwhelmed by the enormity of them. Is it really possible for one person to accomplish all of them? Christine showed us that it was possible and she excelled in all of them! In addition to all of her job responsibilities as executive director, Christine led the way and played an integral role in all of CSTA’s successes in the past decade including:

  • In 2002, the revision of the Integrated Science test to a more useful format for districts, so that the State Board of Education would not eliminate it from the testing scheme.
  • In 2004, playing an integral role in getting the state to change the science criteria that would be used to evaluate textbooks and other instructional materials from no more than 25% to at least 25% hands-on.
  • In 2005 and 2006, closely following the science textbook adoption to try to ensure the integrity of the process. Our ongoing observations of Curriculum Commission meetings were invaluable in overturning or preventing several egregious irregularities in the process.

Thank you Christine for bringing CSTA to where it is today and for your unwavering efforts to bring science education to the forefront.

The CSTA board of directors was very fortunate in hiring Jessica Sawko as our new executive director. Jessica has been our conference manager and has worked closely with Christine for the last four years. Your board has total confidence in her ability to fill this vacancy and excel in its duties. Connie Morrill, our present administrative coordinator, has been promoted to manager of programs and member services. She will continue to work with Jessica in keeping CSTA running smoothly. We welcome both of them to their new positions.

In closing I took the liberty of writing a retirement good-bye to Christine from all of her “CSTA Family”:

Dear Christine,

Please accept our best wishes on your retirement from the position of  executive director of the California Science Teachers Association. It is with utmost dedication and poise that you have performed over the past 15 years. You have tackled problems, big and small, with tenacity and a determination second to none. You have been the face of CSTA over the years and represented us with style and grace. You are well respected by your colleagues, legislators, publishers, and state and national science educators.

It has been wonderful working with you and getting to learn from your valuable expertise, work ethic, and commitment. We have shared all the ups and downs of the science education system together, but with you as our director we felt we could face any problems with strength and confidence. We have learned from you that “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.” You fight for it, strive for it, and insist upon it – always!

Christine, you have left a remarkable legacy behind; one which will remain with us for years to come. You are leaving CSTA a better place than when you found it, and that in itself, will remain a lasting tribute to your professionalism. We will miss you, our colleague, a consummate professional, a confidant, a friend, a wise counselor, a shoulder to lean on, a visionary, a leader, and indeed a lady of note.

We are sure you are not going to sit idle. We hope you enjoy spending a good deal of your free time with your husband Bob and playing with your two Weimaraners. Enjoy your time in the Bahamas and best of luck to you and your husband as you work to complete the beach home you are building there. Remember us fondly and may the years that lie ahead be filled with laughter, happiness, and even more dreams achieved.

This is our wish for you as we say “farewell” but not goodbye.


Your “Family” at CSTA

Written by Tim Williamson

Tim Williamson is a science methods instructor at CSU Long Beach and is a member and past-president of CSTA.

8 Responses

  1. Christine,

    Good luck to you in your retirement plans. You have played an integral role at CSTA and as a member for many years, I would like to thank you with all my heart. Stay well.

    Betsy A. Leonard, now living in Colorado.

  2. Wow — those certainly will be big shoes to fill! Congratulations on your retirement, Christine, but do know that you will be dearly missed. All the best.

  3. Christine,
    You were a faithful witness for real science education representing CSTA during the strange challenges we had to deal with during state science standards development. We always knew you were there. You made a big difference. We will always be grateful. CSTA and California’s science teachers have been fortunate in your leadership. Know you’ve done well for science learning in California.

  4. Sorry for us, glad for you. It’s been a wild ride and I am so grateful to have your hand at the helm, trying valiantly to keep science real for our children across the state. You have made a difference. Thank you, Christine.

  5. Christine, I am excited for this next chapter of your life but sad that you’ll be leaving us. You’ve been a great advocate for science education in California and for CSTA. Best of luck to you and don’t be a stranger! We expect to see you wandering around a CSTA conference someday.

  6. I know I am speaking for Helen when I say that neither of us could have done half the job we tried to do without you in the background to support us and to cheer us on when we did or said something constructive and helpful. People think that chairing an event the size of the CSTA Conference is a major task, and it is, indeed, a rather large undertaking. But here’s a little secret that Helen and I share with others who have done that job (and whom we are confident share our perspective) … we couldn’t have done it without all the hours and all the work that you put in behind the scene. And on top of all that, Christine, you are a warm person and a wonderful friend. The biggest beneficiaries of all that you do, however, are the teachers of California, and the kids that they serve. Thank you, and good luck in all that you do.

  7. You made it all happen. Took CSTA to another level. A level that one could not have imagined. In a vein similar to what Scott said in his comment, being president of CSTA might have looked like an impressive accomplishment but most people probably didn’t know that you made us look good. Made it all happen. Your patient guidance kept the association (and especially us teacher-volunteers) on a steadily upward course. Now the secret is out. Thank you for everything and the best to you in retirement.

  8. It was my distinctive pleasure to work with Christine as the CTA/CSTA Liaison. Her tenacity to make sure that Science was always in the forefront of all educational issues will be her legacy. Christine’s professionalism and stewardship of CSTA has been revered by other CTA Liaison groups. Best wishes for a wonderful and well deserved retirement!

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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.