How Can NSTA Help Me Give Back to My Profession?

When NSTA member Patty McGinnis attended her first NSTA national conference, she was hooked. “I thought, ‘this is the best thing ever!’ and I went again and again,” McGinnis says. “The conferences are energizing because you’re with other people who are passionate about what they do. They’re good teachers, they want to be better, and they want to give back to their profession.”
And that’s exactly what McGinnis wanted to do after the conference—give back to her profession and make a difference in science education. So, she started presenting at the NSTA conferences, writing and reviewing articles for the association’s journals, and volunteering for NSTA committees. Now, she serves on the NSTA Board of Directors as Director of Middle Level Science Teaching.
McGinnis: It’s amazing to have your voice heard. You feel valued. And, when you’re interacting with other really passionate teachers at the national level, you experience this energy that you wouldn’t anywhere else.
A coworker encouraged me to go to my first NSTA conference. After that, I started presenting, mainly at local NSTA conferences, because they were less intimidating. Then, I started presenting at the national level and soon realized there were other opportunities in addition to presenting. Now, I try to let NSTA members who attend conferences know that there are opportunities to serve that will continue to re-energize them beyond that conference.
Serving on an NSTA committee is a great opportunity for teachers to grow into teacher leaders. Your opinion is valued at NSTA. For instance, I served on the Science Scope journal advisory board. On that board, you have the opportunity to set the themes for the journal and to make suggestions for different columns. Ten years ago, I never would have thought I’d be making decisions that could potentially impact teachers across the nation.
As chair of the Committee on Middle Level Science Teaching, for example, I encourage my committee to consider the needs of middle school teachers and figure out ways to help them specifically. We decided that middle school teachers would want conference sessions geared toward just them. So, we held the first ever “Meet Me in the Middle” Day at the national conference in Boston. We had a two-hour networking round-table session that focused on different topics such as assessment and robotics. We also held 14 different half-hour sessions, and then a two-hour share-a-thon with 100 presenters and that was very dynamic. We had about 500 educators attend and we plan to repeat the event at the next conference in Chicago. It am proud that I played a part in creating this event. Being able to provide middle school teachers with something that specifically targets their needs feels very satisfying.
I love volunteering for NSTA and giving back to the profession. But, I didn’t anticipate that I would grow so much and benefit personally from the experience, as well. I can’t describe how much NSTA has impacted my professional life. It has made me into the leader I am today.
(Note from NSTA: Learn more about NSTA’s volunteer opportunities. 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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