Curriculum Studies Master’s Student
“We need to really balance time in four-walled classrooms and behind computer screens with time out in nature and community.”
Woodland Hills, California
- MEd, Curriculum Studies: STEMS²
Where do you currently work?
For the past five years, I have been working at Kapa‘a High School where I teach 9th grade physical science and honors biology.
How did you become interested in the field of STEM education?
I started working as a horseback and adventure guide out of college. My undergraduate degree is in biology, and I love science, but I wasn’t using it. After 11 years of tour guiding, I wanted to get back into science in some way that contributed to my community. My friend and veteran science teacher, Kimberlee Stuart, encouraged me because she thought I would make a great teacher, and the state needed science teachers. Once I became a teacher, I learned about STEM by taking professional development courses, and then I found the STEMS2 concentration. I have always been fascinated with culture and social sciences, so it was a natural fit for me.
What is your philosophy of teaching?
Aside from STEMS2 as a practice, which incorporates STEM plus social/cultural studies and sense of place, I do my best to keep things on the interesting side and to be present for my students. One thing I believe is that we need to really balance time in four-walled classrooms and behind computer screens with time out in nature and community. As a public system, we need to work on making that easier for the teachers.
Briefly describe your student’s award-winning science fair project.
My student collected honey samples from all around Kaua‘i and tested them for the controversial herbicide, glyphosate, using ELISA assay and confirming results with mass spectrometry. One-third of her samples were positive, and the highest levels were measured in honey from the west side of Kaua‘i. Further analysis using Google polygons and Arc-GIS revealed that the highest concentrations were correlated with proximity to large scale agriculture and also suburban areas.
The greatest thing about this project is that we worked as a true science team in collaboration with the head of Kaua‘i Beekeeper’s Association, Jimmy Trujillo, to get samples and with Dr. Carl Berg of Surfrider Foundation as a mentor. Surfrider Foundation funded the testing, and it was truly a team effort.
What are you future plans?
I’ve had a lot on my plate this past year, so I want to take some down time to focus on my own two children. I plan to continue teaching at Kapa‘a High School, and I definitely want to shift my teaching practice to be more place and community based. I will be slowly working those details out over the next couple of years.