I Have Little Access to Professional Learning Programs Where I Live. Where Can I Turn to for Help?

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Sandy Gady has been an NSTA member for over 22 years. Her first teaching jobs were in small towns with no colleges or universities nearby. Therefore, Gady says that access to quality professional learning was limited, which is why her NSTA membership really came in handy. “When I was in a small town with no access to professional learning, the NSTA journals saved me,” she says. Gady credits her NSTA membership with helping her achieve National Board Certification. “Being a part of NSTA helped me figure out what is a big idea, how you break it down, and how you teach science in a meaningful way,” she says.

And, even though Gady now lives and works in an area with greater professional learning opportunities, she says she uses her NSTA membership just as much, especially in her role as an NSTA online advisor.

Gady: So many teachers here in Washington State live in rural communities and there is no other way to get better professional learning. I find that the NSTA web seminars are better than almost any class offered at a college or university. For instance, the American Chemical Society (ACS) and NSTA hosted a web seminar on candy and chemistry in September. I couldn’t pull away from it, it was so engaging. And the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) seminars have been terrific. I would say having access to the web seminars and the journals has allowed me to understand the science behind what I teach.

NSTA is kind of my backbone. When you take part in the NSTA Community Forums, you have access to the most fantastic people in the world when you’re trying to figure out what you want to do next with your teaching to take it to another level. When you say, ‘I need help and I have this idea, does anybody know of anything else I can do?’ you get valuable feedback from fellow teachers within 24 hours.

I’ve had student teachers in the last three years who haven’t heard about NSTA. I’ve told them about the association and all of the resources available to them. NSTA offers Student, Preservice, and New Teacher memberships, and does everything it can to make learning accessible to teachers. Now, many of my student teachers are using the NSTA Learning Center as part of the classes they’re teaching.

How else does your NSTA membership help you?

Gady: The NSTA Conferences are amazing. When you are from a small town and you walk into a regional conference, you are just blown away with the wide variety of resources that you didn’t even know existed. Having the vendors all in one place and being able to see what’s possible is a terrific opportunity that without NSTA wouldn’t exist.

In addition, any book that is published by NSTA Press is a quality book. For me, it really all goes back to professional learning. When I first stepped into a science classroom, I had a half-credit of science in my K–8 endorsement. Science education wasn’t deemed important in our state at that time. Therefore, I relied heavily on NSTA books for support. I still live by Bill Robertson’s The Stop Faking It series and Page Keeley’s Uncovering Student Ideas in Science. I have three sets of both series. One set I keep at school, one I keep at home, and one I loan to the National Board candidates I facilitate.

I am also really impressed with NSTA’s virtual conferences. NSTA doesn’t get old; it never ages. NSTA has always had a vision ahead of where everyone else is. There is no price you can put on that.

(Note from NSTA: Not a member of NSTA? Learn more about how to join.)

Jennifer Henderson is our guest blogger for this series. Before launching her freelance career as a writer/editor, Jennifer was Managing Editor of The Science Teacher, NSTA’s peer-reviewed journal for high school science teachers.

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