September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 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.