Monday, August 31, 2015

A Science Guy’s Almanac #5: Inspiration to Teach Re: March 1993

A Science Guy’s Almanac #5: Inspiration to Teach Re: March 1993

August 31, 2015
Re: March 1993

I was fortunate to have been nominated for and selected as California’s Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Science Teaching in 1993. That was a very high and humbling honor. It included what was truly a “once in a lifetime experience—a week of being treated like a dignitary in Washington, D.C.
In 2010, one of the Math Awardees for that year, Sean Nank, did a lot of work and got a book of anecdotal chapters by Presidential Awardees across the years published. Chapter 45: Let “You” Show Through – by C. R. Downing – Pages 295-300 is my chapter. What follows—except for the photographs—is an excerpt from that chapter. Specifically, this post answers the following question:
3)  What inspires you to continue your endeavors in teaching and other goals you now have?

As I write this, I am nearing the end of my thirty-eighth year as a teacher. To my way of thinking, I have lived three “lives” as a teacher. For twenty-three years, I taught biology and integrated science at Monte Vista High School in Spring Valley, California.
My first Anatomy and Physiology Class. They called themselves The Chuckaroos. I am the Chief Chuckaroo and am in the bowler hat on the right of the photo.

Upon completion of my PhD in Education, I joined the Teacher Education Department at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) as full time faculty. Each semester at PLNU I was privileged to teach a special laboratory section of General Education Biology for the Elementary Teaching majors. Twice in my eight years at the University, I was accorded the honor of teaching the lecture section for that semester as well.

Pig Dissection at PLNU.
In 2004 I began teaching at Great Oak High School in Temecula, California. It is my plan to remain in this situation until I retire.
Returning to high school teaching after my time at PLNU was the result of 1) my desire to get back into our state teacher retirement system to reach one of the key length of service milestones; 2) to have the opportunity to work for a person I knew and was compatible with; 3) to open a brand new school; and 4) to teach integrated science again.
I have now achieved my first goal and have thirty years of service in California K-12 public education. The other three reasons have vaporized over time. The principal I went to my current school to work for is now Superintendent of our district. The school is no longer new, as is evidenced by our aged, slow, finicky computers and the fading paint on doors and window frames. Our original integrated science has degenerated from the well-designed thematic course it was seven years ago to a mundane collection of loosely connected science concepts across four disciplines.
So, why am I still teaching? If you ask my wife, she would say because it is what I do best—that is part of it for sure. The real reason I am teaching now, and will continue to teach for at least two more years is this: I am blessed to work with two of the best teachers I have ever known--Jen and Rachel. Each day they inspire me. Each has overcome personal tragedies in the year 2010-2011 that I cannot imagine overcoming. I was privileged to live that year with them—they are my heroes.
Rachel (Supergirl) and Jen (purple wig) join me (Buzz Lightyear) and Teresa (Operation Game)
In spite of the physical and emotional trauma in the lives of these two teachers, they continue to come to school each day, to engage students in meaningful and innovative ways. They also provide me with an overarching purpose—helping to equip the next generation of superior science teachers to lead and inspire.
Excerpted from:

I pray for nearly 50 teachers by name every Monday-Friday during the school year. They are relatives, colleagues from MVHS or GOHS, or were students in my Teacher Education classes. As Christa McAuliffe, speaking for all teachers, wrote,
I change the world… I teach.
I retired from full time teaching in June of 2012. I miss the kids and colleagues. The other stuff… not so much!

Next Almanac: A History of Injury

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