Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?
My specialty and degrees are in Biology and this is what I primarily teach at my school. I am also the STEM Coordinator. The STEM program is a new and exciting program that begin last year. I was approached by a student to begin the club and this compelled me to apply for robotics grants. Upon receiving the grants, we began our VEX robotics team and competed in State during our second year. We also began building underwater robots with the assistance of the SeaPerch grants. This program sparked interest in engineering for many students. Because of this, we are beginning a 4-year engineering program starting next year. These opportunities wouldn’t be available had I not been exposed to such wonderful and motivated students!
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
I chose to pursue a career related to biology because my parents always pushed me to go outdoors and to be curious about why things happen. Having the opportunity to live in Washington State fueled my passion for nature, so studying biology seemed like the natural thing to do. During graduate school, I was required to teach Introductory Biology and Organic Chemistry labs. I was terrified at first but soon found that I loved it. This sparked my initial interest. During this time, I was visiting my parents in San Antonio. This area was a bit rough and teenagers would have altercations with police because of drug-related offenses. While I was there, a 15-year old child was shot and killed in front of my parents’ apartment and that is when it hit me that if someone had believed in that child enough to keep them in school, then maybe that would not have happened. I have always wanted to make a difference and teaching seems to be my best avenue. I was fortunate enough to have a love of learning bestowed upon me and I want that same gift to be given to every child.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
I would have to say that my parents have encouraged me the most. I grew up watching them read and they exposed me to many things in our natural world. My dad in particular is always researching animals that he sees in the wild and I believe this curiosity is contagious.
What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?
I think one of the most fascinating things that my work offers is the diversity of disciplines that you are exposed to if you allow yourself to be. I never would have imagined that I would have the opportunity to sail aboard the Nautilus. I also never imagined being exposed to engineering and robotics but teaching has allowed this. I went into teaching to make a difference but it has had a profound impact on me as well.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
Other jobs that led me to my current career are primarily focused in the sciences. I had opportunities to work as a research assistant during my undergraduate work, where I was able to study stream ecology and the effects of a fungus, Saprolegnia, on amphibian embryos. Graduate school afforded me the opportunity to teach labs and that is what really sparked my interest. While pursuing my degrees, teaching had never crossed my mind but being asked to teach during graduate school pushed me in a direction that I had not considered in years past. My research in graduate school also helped in my ambition to teach because science is all about conveying information to the public. What better way to do that than by teaching!
What are your degrees and certifications?
I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Organismal Biology in 2007 from Central Washington University. I received my Masters of Science in Biology from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 2011.
What are your hobbies?
I love golf but am terrible at it! I also love to kayak and camp when time allows. Going to my childrens' sporting events is amazing and spending time with my family is wonderful.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?
If you would like to go into teaching, I would advise that you choose a degree path that allows diversity and options. I found that having biology degrees enhanced my passion of the subject and it is apparent to the students. It also allows you to branch out to other fields if you choose to do so later on in life. For example, if you want to be a history teacher, then get a degree in history. It may allow you other opportunities in education, such as working at a museum. I would also say do not be afraid of failure because that is when you learn most. Beginning new programs is daunting but the rewards from seeing children succeed are endless. Every program will have pitfalls initially but take time to evaluate what went wrong and that will help you improve the program and yourself as a person.
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
I was initially approached by CITGO through their partnership with OET's Community STEM Program. They were looking for local teachers to serve as a Nautilus Ambassadors. While on the ship in 2015, I had the chance to observe the Science Communication Fellows at work and a few months later I decided to apply for that position. I love how the position intertwines education and communication skills. I was on the fence initially because I love being around my wife and kids. But after completing a summer STEM Academy (professional development workshop for educators) with Sam and Megan (OET Staff members) and seeing their enthusiasm, I made my mind up that I would definitely apply.