September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

What’s Next?

Posted: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Rick Pomeroy

The winter break is over, your first and possibly only semester of student teaching is drawing to a close, and you are beginning to think about that big elephant in the room. Will there be a job at the end of all this work? If the number of phone calls I have received in the past week is any indication of the need for science teachers, the answer is “Yes, Virginia, there will be jobs.”

As you move forward into the spring, thoughts will logically turn to the job search and all of the questions, and decisions that you will be making about your future. Every year I coach my students through this phase of the process with some simple, and seemingly successful, advice.

First – remember that every day is a job interview. The teaching community is extensive but ultimately everybody knows somebody, and you never know when that somebody is looking for a science teacher. If you approach your planning and teaching each day as if someone is watching with the intent of hiring you, you will pay a little closer attention to details, focus on knowing what your students are learning, and you will be able to clearly explain your reasons and methods for the lessons you are teaching.



Second – make yourself as marketable as possible. Consider adding a second science subject authorization to your credential. Make sure that it is a subject that you like and would be willing to teach because remember that if it is on your credential, you could very easily be asked to teach that subject as your whole assignment. Many combination jobs will be listed during the spring and you will have a wider selection if you can teach multiple science areas. Personally, I am not a fan of adding a different subject credential simply to increase marketability. I highly encourage you to focus on science and make yourself as marketable there as possible.

Third – do your research about potential job locations. By the time you have earned your credential, you will have completed your performance assessment (PACT, edTPA, TPA, etc.) Part of that process included a deep and thoughtful look at your community, school, and students. Do the same when looking for that first job. Use the skills you have acquired to match your interests, philosophies, and desires with the students you will be teaching. Don’t pursue a job just because it is convenient if it is not where or who you want to teach. You want to be happy and fulfilled in your first years of teaching and that won’t be the case if you are not happy with where you are teaching. If you have no desire to teach in a district or community, don’t apply there. This is a stressful time of year for school districts trying to fill their anticipated vacancies, and they want to focus their search on people who genuinely want to teach in their districts; they don’t need to spend time reviewing your application if there is no chance you will even accept an invitation to interview. You don’t want to leave a bad impression by turning down an interview if you had no intention of teaching there because the education community is very connected so it might come back to haunt you later.

Be prepared when a district contacts you for an interview. You should have a bit of background knowledge about the school and community. When an applicant interviews, it is obvious if they are genuinely interested in being part of that school community or if instead, they are entirely focused on the job. Visit the school’s websites to learn a little bit about their culture, the classes they offer, their athletics and student cultural events, etc. If you have time, visit the community where the school is located before the day of the interview to get a feel for the area.

Finally, I have three pieces of advice that I will repeat many, many times this year:

1. Your first two to three years on the job are an intense learning experience. You have just completed a short, introductory process that has prepared you to enter the classroom. Every teacher will tell you that your “learning to teach” phase has just begun. Over the next several years you will grow exponentially in your ability to juggle all of the tasks and responsibilities associated with being a teacher. Stay the course through the turbulent times, and teaching will become more natural as you grow as a professional.

2. The first job you take will not necessarily be the last job you will have. Your personal circumstances will change over the course of your teaching career. Though it is not a good employee characteristic to change jobs every year, you should not be afraid to relocate or change positions when your life situation changes.

3. It is easier to get a job when you have a job. Right now, if you are the typical credential student, you are paying to attend school and earning little or no money. Under these circumstances, almost any job offer looks attractive. Avoid the tendency to take the first job offered simply to get a job if you have followed all of the suggestions at the beginning of this article. No administrator wants to hire an unhappy new teacher. The fit between you and the job is critical for your first year success.

The next few months may seem like a roller coaster ride for you and the schools looking for new teachers. In the end, your goal is to be the best teacher you can be, serving the learning needs of the students and children in California. Go boldly into this next phase of your career. I wish you all the good fortune of finding a great first year teaching position.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is 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.