September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2013 Finalists for Prestigious National Teaching Award

Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated five outstanding secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2013 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

The science nominees are Amanda Alonzo (CSTA Member), a biology teacher at Lynbrook High School in the Fremont Union High School District, Santa Clara County; and Scott Holloway, a physics teacher at Westlake High School in the Conejo Valley Unified School District, Ventura County.

Both Amanda and Scott will be provided with a complimentary registration to the 2013 California Science Education Conference in Palm Springs will be honored at the Awards Breakfast during the conference.

The math nominees are Marianne Chowning-Dray, an Algebra II and trigonometry teacher at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, San Mateo County; Michelle Rene Katz, an Advanced Placement (AP) calculus teacher at Northridge Academy High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County; and Andrew Walter, a pre-calculus teacher at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in the Stockton Unified School District, San Joaquin County.

“These remarkable teachers and their colleagues around the state play a central role in preparing students for college or career,” Torlakson said. “Science and math education is crucial not only to our students’ futures, but also to California’s future as a leader in innovation and opportunity. All students need a solid foundation in these rapidly expanding fields to succeed in a global economy.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partnered 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. Each applicant must demonstrate a mastery of math or science, appropriate use of instructional methods and strategies, effective use of assessment strategies, lifelong learning, and leadership in education outside the classroom. Each candidate also was required to submit a 45-minute video lesson in support of their application. State finalists were selected by a review panel of their peers who reviewed each candidate’s content knowledge, pedagogical effectiveness, achievement results, and professional involvement.

Science Finalists

Amanda Alonzo is a biology teacher at Lynbrook High School in the Fremont Unified School District in San Jose, where she has taught since 2002. In addition to teaching biology and human physiology courses, Alonzo also coaches students who compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair—20 of whom have been named “outstanding finalist.” Recently, Alonzo began an integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research course that is open to any student in grades nine through twelve. Students design an original STEM research project and then work with Alonzo to carry it out. Alonzo has a Bachelor of Arts in Human Biology from Pitzer College and a Master of Arts in Science Education from Stanford University. Her video focused on a ninth-grade biology course, and her lesson topic was “Evidence to Support the Theory of Evolution and Alternative Argumentative Essays.”

Scott Holloway is a physics teacher at Westlake High School in the Conejo Valley Unified School District, where he has taught for five years. Prior to coming to Westlake High, Holloway taught chemistry in the Los Angeles Unified School District for nine years. When he arrived at Westlake High, only 13 students enrolled for AP Physics, and the district discussed eliminating the course. In 2012-13, 150 students registered for the AP Physics course, and his students had a pass rate on the rigorous AP exam of 98 percent. Holloway’s students also are active in the American Association of Physics Teachers Physics Olympiad and the regional Physics Bowl. Holloway advises the campus Robotics Club, which has been successful in regional competitions. Holloway holds a Master of Arts in Science Education from California State University, Northridge; a Single Subject Credential in Physics from the same institution, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His video lesson focused on “angular accelerations due to torques acting on the object and dependent upon the moment of inertia.”

Mathematics Finalists

The first mathematics finalist, Marianne Chowning-Dray, has 22 years teaching experience and has taught at the private Eastside College Preparatory School since 2007. Eastside College Preparatory educates students historically underrepresented in high education. Chowning-Dray also has taught in public schools in Palo Alto, California; Mercer Island, Washington; and Essex Junction, Vermont. She is a graduate of Stanford University, where she earned her master’s in the Stanford Teacher Education Program, and Smith College. In her video lesson, Chowning-Dray taught about the radian measure of an angle.

The second mathematics nominee, Michelle Katz, is a founding math teacher at Northridge Academy High School, a comprehensive high school that opened in 2004 in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and is operated in partnership with California State University, Northridge. Katz has received National Board Certification and has devoted her teaching career to the LAUSD, which she joined in 1992. She is a graduate of California State University, Northridge, where she received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. In her video lesson, Katz demonstrated multiple mathematical formulations for expressing rates of change over time.

The third mathematics finalist, Andrew Walter, teaches mathematics at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in the Stockton Unified School District, where he has worked for 20 years. Walter currently serves as the school’s Mathematics Department Chair and also serves as a Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) advisor for pre-engineering students at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Walter emphasizes innovative thinking and mathematical and engineering principles. Walter holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the University of the Pacific and a Master of Science in Integrating Technology from Walden University. In his video lesson, Walter linked academic language to equations, graphs, derivatives, and limits.

The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. PAEMST was enacted by Congress in 1983 and authorizes the President each year to bestow up to 108 awards. PAEMST awards primary and secondary teachers in alternate years. Awards are given to mathematics 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.

Since the program’s inception, 84 California teachers have been named PAEMST recipients. Please visit the PAEMST Web site for additional information. (Please note that the 2012 national recipients have yet to be announced.)

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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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

Cal

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.