September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Congratulates Two California Science and Math Teachers Receiving Presidential Honors

Posted: Monday, February 3rd, 2014

SACRAMENTO—On January 14, 2014, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson congratulated two outstanding California educators recently named by President Barack Obama as recipients of the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) award. They are among 102 teachers to receive this recognition.

The California science winner is Alma Suney Park, a sixth grade teacher at Eastside College Preparatory School, a private school in East Palo Alto, San Mateo County. The California mathematics winner is Jamie Garner, a sixth grade mathematics teacher at the Walnut Elementary Education Center in the Turlock Unified School District, Stanislaus County.

“These teachers play key roles in encouraging and inspiring their students with not only their expertise, but their talent and dedication,” said Torlakson, a longtime science teacher. “They are teaching students who could very well become the next generation of scientists and engineers our country so urgently needs.”

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching— the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 mathematics and science teaching—is awarded annually to outstanding teachers from across the country, Puerto Rico, Department of Defense Education Activity schools, and the U.S. territories. Since the program’s inception in1983, more than 4,200 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

The winners are selected by a panel of scientists, mathematicians, and educators following an initial nomination process done at the state level. Each year, the award alternates between teachers of kindergarten through sixth grade and those teaching seventh through the twelfth grades. The recently named awardees teach kindergarten through sixth grade.

Winners of the presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. They also are invited to Washington, DC, for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and the Obama administration. The educators will receive their awards at a Washington, DC, event later this year.

Early this year, Torlakson announced California’s nominations for the 2013 awards. Nominations for the 2014 PAEMST are open through April 1, 2014. For more information about PAEMST, please visit the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching External link opens in new window or tab. Web site.

Alma Suney Park is a sixth grade teacher at Eastside College Preparatory School, where she has worked since 2005. Originally from Illinois, Park has 13 years of prior teaching, eight of which have been in California. She possesses credentials from Illinois, California, and Michigan. She has a background in the biological sciences and focuses her teaching strategies around problem solving, conceptual understanding, and addressing real-world problems. She has worked with the Teaching Channel to create demonstration lessons for the Common Core State Standards. She has piloted a youth philanthropy project (Project Give) focused on environmental science and climate change. Her video lesson featured an investigation on climate change that capped a unit of study on global warming. She holds degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan.

Jamie Garner teaches at a mathematics and science magnet school where all subjects are taught through the lens of those disciplines. Her classroom features hands-on, project-based learning activities. She leads a special elective class on “future cities,” where students are given the opportunity to generate model cities that could exist 150 years in the future. Garner also provides intensive, after-school instruction for students who may be struggling in mathematics. She is a regional coordinator for PI Day (a day to celebrate the value and contributions of mathematics to society). Her video focused on a geometry lesson determining the surface area of three-dimensional solids. Garner has a bachelor of arts, summa cum laude, in liberal studies and a master’s of education, with distinction, in curriculum and instruction from California State University, Stanislaus

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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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.