May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

So How Is That Science Teaching Job Working Out for You?

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

You made it! You dreamed about it all through student teaching – the chance to have your very own classroom. You have set it up just the way you want, you have put together a strong classroom management plan, and you have designed fabulous, creative lessons. It is smooth sailing from here on out…right?

Well, just in case your teaching career is not going quite as effortlessly as you had imagined, you are in good company. Many new teachers find that the realities of a full time teaching job can be even more difficult than their time spent student teaching. However, with a little patience and support you can be on your way to a successful and enjoyable school year. The following are some ideas to help you get there:

Create a Support-System and Use It

In my 16 years as a BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support & Assessment) support provider, I have worked with two kinds of new teachers – those who ask for help and those who do not. The ones who ultimately have the most difficult first year are those who do not ask. What new teachers do not seem to realize is that, although they are hesitant to communicate to their bosses and fellow teachers that they do not know everything, no boss or veteran teacher expects them to know everything. In fact, most seasoned teachers will tell them that collaborating with colleagues about best practices helps both parties become better teachers. Lauren Fromm, 2nd year teacher at Bear Creek High School at Lodi Unified points out that even though she feels like she is somehow “being a pain” when she asks for help, everyone she has talked to is more than willing to lend a hand. Asking for help can save you precious time and “brain power,” which are often in limited supply for new instructors.

You have probably already spent sometime with your fellow science department or grade level teachers. These people are essential in helping you decide what curriculum to teach and how to teach it. They can inform you about the availability of equipment, consumables, technology, and textbooks. And while teacher colleagues are vital resources, there are other staff members who can make the time in your new job easier if you give them the opportunity to do so. Cultivate genuine relationships with school secretaries and custodians. These behind the scenes employees are invaluable assets when it comes to helping you submit paper work, arrange for substitutes, repair equipment, and make schedule changes.

Make the Most of BTSA

All first and second year teachers in California are required to complete an induction program. Most will complete BTSA. Ideally the emphasis is on support and you have been assigned to a provider who is willing to give you the time and care you need to thrive during your first (and second) year. The most effective support providers know when to move you forward with the actual BTSA content and when to back off and just let you talk about the issues with which you are currently dealing. Lauren Fromm says she focuses on the positive aspects of the program, for example, one of the Benchmarks requires that she write a little something about each student. This makes her think about what she knows about their interests, strengths, and weaknesses and has led her to realize that she needs to make more of an effort to talk to her students. It should be helpful to know that the people who run the BTSA programs across the state want you to be successful. My experience is that BSTA staff will move mountains to help new teachers finish the program successfully.

Get Connected

Sometimes e-mail is sent to every employee in the school district – except you. Do you even realize that you are not receiving e-mails? More than likely this is occurring because you have not been added to group e-mail folders.   Michel Perez, first year teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District realized that she was not in the e-mail loop when a fellow teacher mentioned to her that she needed a document turned into her principal by the next day. Michel had no idea what the colleague was referring to. Be proactive. If you have a BTSA support provider or other mentor, ask them to contact the necessary people to help you get connected. If that is not possible, ask your department or grade level chair to notify the appropriate people for you. Going directly to the school secretaries or administration and asking them to place you in group e-mail folders is also an option as is asking them to contact district personnel to correct the situation. Meanwhile, request that another teacher forward to you any pertinent correspondences until the issue is resolved.

Time for a Break

Take a break? You can’t possibly take a break! You have five different science classes to prep, a staff meeting after school, and BTSA paperwork to finish. Rick Pomeroy, Supervisor of the Science Credential Program at the University of California at Davis says that “being expected to do way more things than their schedules have time for” often frustrates new teachers   But, as busy as you are you must find some time for yourself. Even though you have responsibilities to your employer, students, and family, none of them wants you become mentally and physically exhausted. You know deep down that the time you take to turn your brain off of work will pay off in much more productive time afterwards. Brooke Beckett of Galt High School in the Galt High School District encourages new teachers to plan time for themselves to do something fun. She says, “The first year is the hardest and you don’t want to burn out.”

Even though your first year of teaching may be a challenge, in no time you will find yourself facing your second year – more knowledgeable, more confident, and more relaxed. You will always remember your first year in the teaching profession and I hope the memories are good ones.

Thank you to Brooke Beckett – Computer Applications, Principles of Engineering, Digital and Video Production, General Science, and Physics at Galt High School in the Galt High School District, Lauren Fromm – College Prep. and AP Biology, Bear Creek High School in the Lodi Unified School District, Michel Perez – 7th Grade Science at McCaffrey Middle School in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, Rick Pomeroy – Science Credential Program School of Education at University of California, Davis. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

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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:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at 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.