May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

PAEMST Nominees Announced

Posted: Friday, July 1st, 2011

California Department of Education

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson nominated six outstanding secondary teachers as 2011-12 California finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The national winners will be named next year by the White House.

The math nominees are: William Conrad Thill, an Advanced Placement (AP) statistics and calculus teacher at the independent Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood, Los Angeles County; Kentaro Iwasaki, a math teacher and chair of the Mathematics Department at Mission High School in the San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco County; and Juliana E. Jones, an algebra teacher at Longfellow Magnet Middle School in the Berkeley Unified School District, Alameda County.

The science nominees are: Dean Andrew Baird, a physics teacher at Rio Americano High School in the San Juan Unified School District, Sacramento County; Ericka Senegar-Mitchell, a biotechnology teacher at Junipero Serra High School in the San Diego Unified School District, San Diego County; and Ziba Mayar, a biology teacher at Temecula Valley High School in the Temecula Valley Unified School District, Riverside County.

“As a teacher, it is my honor to recognize these educators and the work they are doing to inspire students in mathematics and science, and prepare them for success in our technology-driven economy,” said Torlakson, a science teacher-on-leave from Contra Costa County’s Mount Diablo Unified School District. “All six nominees have demonstrated a deep understanding of their respective disciplines. Congratulations and good luck to all of them as they move forward in the national competition.”

The California Department of Education partnered with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program. Each applicant had to demonstrate a mastery of math or science, appropriate use of instructional methods and strategies, effective use of assessment strategies, employ life-long learning, and show leadership in education outside the classroom. Each candidate was also required to submit a 45-minute video lesson in support of their application.

Thill has taught upper division math, including AP statistics, pre-calculus, and calculus since 2000 at the Harvard-Westlake school. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in math from the Trinity University and a Master of Arts degree in secondary math education from California State University, Northridge. His video featured a pre-calculus lesson on creating patterns, conjectures, sequences, and proofs.

Iwasaki teaches math and serves as the Chair of the Mathematics Department at Mission High School, a high poverty school with 38 percent of its students learning English. He not only teaches struggling students, but also excels at teaching honors and AP math courses, explaining the most complex math topics in such a way that students can then become teachers of math themselves.

Jones has taught algebra since 2008 at Longfellow Magnet Middle School. Prior to that, she taught in the Oakland Unified School District. She was named in 2007 as the Alameda County Teacher of the Year. Jones, who earned both a Bachelor of Science in math and a Master of Arts in education from the University of California, Los Angeles, was an Oakland Teacher of the Year, the 2005 Mathematics Teacher of the Year for Alameda-Contra Costa counties and a 2007 Alameda County Teacher of the Year. Her video focused on factoring, using an area model to determine length and width.

Baird has taught physics, computer science and electronics, and physical science since 1986 at Rio Americano High School. He is the recipient of numerous local, state, and national recognition awards and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science degree in instructional leadership in curriculum and instruction from National University. Baird presented his “Why the Sky is Blue” video that actively explores a variety of alternative explanations through experimentation, demonstration, and discussion.

Senegar-Mitchell has taught biology and biotechnology courses since 2007 at Junipero Serra High School. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from Loyola Marymount University, a second Bachelor of Science in biology from the California State University, Dominguez Hills; a teaching credential in biological sciences and chemistry from California State University, Fullerton; and a Master of Arts and a Doctorate in Education Psychology from Chapman University. Senegar-Mitchell is San Diego Unified’s 2010 High School Teacher of the Year, a San Diego County Teacher of the Year, and a finalist for the California Teacher of the Year. Her video was a laboratory-based lesson focused on mammalian cell culture techniques.

Mayar has taught high school biology courses since 2001 at Temecula Valley High School. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from San Diego State University and was selected as the 2011 Riverside County Science Teacher of the Year. Her video focused on DNA re-combination and used student coaches to instruct and support the learning of other students.

The nominees’ applications will now be sent to the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for additional consideration for this highly esteemed national award that will be finalized next year. PAEMST is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through twelfth grade math or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. PAEMST was enacted by Congress in 1983 and authorizes the President each year to bestow up to 108 awards to math and science teachers from each of the 50 states and four U.S. jurisdictions including Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Department of Defense Schools; and the U.S. territories. PAEMST awards primary and secondary teachers in alternate years.

Since the program’s inception, 82 California teachers have been named PAEMST recipients. For more information about PAEMST, please visit the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Presidential Awards for Math & Science Teaching Web page. For contact information for the national finalists and the state nominees, please contact the CDE Communications Division at 916-319-0818 or communications@cde.ca.gov.


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.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. 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.