September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Recognizing and Shining a Light on Excellence

Posted: Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Laura Henriques

CSTA President Lisa Hegdahl presents the 2015 Future Science Teacher Award to Justin Fournier.

CSTA President Lisa Hegdahl presents the 2015 Future Science Teacher Award to Justin Fournier.

The CSTA Board of Directors likes to recognize excellence and significant contributions. There are many ways that CSTA recognizes contributions of our members. For example, the President publicly acknowledges member contributions to committees and authorship in California Classroom Science at the CSTA California Science Education Conference and in press in CCS. We know that the work of our organization is done by many and we like to recognize and acknowledge your contributions.

Another way that CSTA recognizes and highlights excellence to our field is via the awards program. The awards recognize contributions beyond service to CSTA. We have three awards given annually which recognize outstanding contributions, excellence in the field and the potential for excellence. I am guessing you know of individuals, groups or organizations that would be worthy recipients of these awards. Please take the time to nominate one!

Think about the most influential science educators in California. This should be a CSTA member who has made a significant, ongoing contribution to science education in the state through leadership and service. Can you picture him or her? Wouldn’t you like everyone to know how this person has positively impacted the quality of science education and science teaching in California? Nominate this person for the Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award. The Nicholson Award is CSTA’s highest honor and it recognizes significant contributions to science education. Both the nominee and nominator must be CSTA members for at least four years. To submit a nomination for the Nicholson award, please click here. Only one Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award will be given in any year. Click to view past recipients. (CSTA Board Members are not eligible to receive this award while serving on the Board.)

CSTA President Lisa Hegdahl presents the 2015 Distinguished Contributions Award to Katie Jaxheimer Agarwal of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

CSTA President Lisa Hegdahl presents the 2015 Distinguished Contributions Award to Katie Jaxheimer Agarwal of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

In addition to recognizing excellence in personal contributions, CSTA recently created an award to recognize group or organizational contributions to science education. The CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award honors an organization, institution or foundation which has made a sustained, significant impact to science education in the state and which, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching and learning. No more than two CSTA Distinguished Contributions Awards will be given in any year. To submit a nomination for this award, please click here. In addition to completing the online nomination form, nominators should submit one or more letters of support which describe specific examples of service to science education, commitment to excellence in science education, professional involvement and evidence of contributions. Click to view past recipients.

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The final award given by CSTA recognizes potential. The CSTA Future Science Teacher Award recognizes college students (undergraduates or credential candidates) who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to science education through volunteer tutoring or teaching activities in a school setting, volunteer activities in a museum, nature center or related organization, courses taken in science, long-term career goals, and related activities, and who show promise to become outstanding science educators. No more than two Future Science Teacher Awards will be awarded in any year. Click to view past recipients. To submit a nomination for this award, please click here. Nominators need to be CSTA members, but the nominee (the college student) is not required to be a CSTA member. Nominators will submit the nomination form and a letter of endorsement. The nominee will then be asked to submit written descriptions of their commitment and experiences in science education.

Over the years I have nominated several people and organizations for CSTA awards. I enjoy submitting the nominations and I know that the nominees appreciate the recognition – even when they are not selected. The fact that I took time to acknowledge their contributions and service is appreciated. The nomination process does not take very long and the person or group you nominate is sure to appreciate the effort and gesture. Please consider submitting a nomination for one of the three awards listed above. There are lots of outstanding individuals and groups doing work in California. Wouldn’t you like to see them get their moment in the spotlight?

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and a past-president of CSTA.

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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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.