When NSTA member Susanne Hokkanen was in school for teaching, she received a bachelor’s degree in history along with her teaching certificate. Hokkanen thought she would teach history after graduation, but instead she was hired as a middle school science teacher. “I panicked,” Hokkanen says. “I had taken only 12 credit hours of science in school. I didn’t feel prepared to teach it.”
Hokkanen quickly realized she needed help. “As soon as I secured my teaching position, I got in touch with NSTA,” she says. Hokkanen credits the association for helping her become the science teacher she is today. “My membership in NSTA has helped keep me in science education,” she says. “I’ve been offered teaching positions in social studies and I haven’t taken them.”
Hokkanen: My NSTA membership afforded me the opportunity to take part in the NSTA New Science Teacher Academy. The year-long experience was phenomenal. Being a part of the academy gave me access to science education mentors, discussion threads filled with content specialists, and pedagogy experts.
Academy fellows also get to attend NSTA’s National Conference on Science Education. Before that time, I had only attended NSTA regional conferences, which are so helpful. The national conference is just as amazing, but more intense. I attend conference sessions that speak to me as an educator. NSTA conferences always have strong threads on diversity—meeting the needs of minority students and teaching in a diverse community. And I go to a lot of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) sessions, which focus on the 5E Instructional Model and inquiry-based learning.
Through NSTA, I learned about Montana State University, where I earned my Master of Science in Science Education. And, as an NSTA member, I’ve participated in web seminars and spent a lot of time in the NSTA Learning Center, which has helped solidify my content and pedagogical knowledge. Because of my involvement in the Learning Center and in web seminars, I now serve as an NSTA online advisor and web seminar moderator.
I’m constantly telling fellow teachers in my district about the benefits of an NSTA membership. There are a tremendous amount of elementary school teachers, for example, who don’t feel qualified to teach science. And they are hesitant to teach science. I like to use myself as an example as why other teachers should not be afraid of science. I encourage them to look at NSTA and the NSTA Learning Center so that they can learn how an NSTA membership helps you gain confidence as a science teacher.
(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.