My Journey to NSTA

Guest blog post by Paul Orbe

Dear NSTA Members:

I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience with NSTA, our professional organization. Before I embark in storytelling I deem necessary to offer a quick overview in how I became an educator and a proud NSTA member. I feel somewhat obliged to pay it forward. I’m confident there is someone out there who could possibly benefit from my personal story.

After spending several years in healthcare administration and with a nascent family, I made the conscious decision to transition into education. I must admit it was not an easy transition but one somewhat facilitated by my academic background. I received my BS in Biochemistry from Rutgers University in my home state of New Jersey as well as a masters in Administration. I opted to attend an alternate route program to obtain the necessary training to become a certified teacher. After completing the necessary requirements, I received teaching certificates in Biology and in Chemistry. I have been employed with the Union City School District in Union City, NJ since 2012.

Although previous education and work experience provided the necessary tools to excel in my new endeavor, I felt there was something missing. While searching for content for my courses, I stumbled across the NSTA website. Destiny…possibly. My prayers were answered (my doubts subsided) when I learned about the mission of the NSTA. The NSTA’s Guiding Principles and the NSTA’s Strategic Goals offered valuable insights to a newcomer like myself. The decision of becoming a member was a no brainer. Gaining access to a myriad of resources for teachers was certainly a welcomed perk. But the more I learned about the NSTA, the more involved I became.

During my first year as a member of the NSTA, I applied to one of their many professional learning programs. I was beside myself when I was selected to the New Science Teacher Academy sponsored by the Bayer USA Foundation and the NSTA. I was one of nine educators representing NJ. As a New Science Teacher Academy Fellow, I was able to attend my first national conference in Chicago, IL.  The New Science Teacher Academy was a competitive and comprehensive program encompassing a yearlong e-mentoring with the New Teacher Center among other activities. Moreover, my professional network was immediately expanded. NSTA officers and staff were responsive to my questions and concerns. Knowing that someone has your back is certainly comforting. During my attendance to the National Conference, I quickly learned the multitude of workshops, topics, guest speakers and exhibits available. I felt like a kid in a candy store. So many interesting activities to attend…so little time. I was grateful to learn more about our profession.

The following year I received a Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Award for New Teachers. This time I attended the National Conference in Nashville, TN. I also received the 2016 Urban Science Educator Development Award from Shell Oil Company and NSTA. Since, I have presented original research in numerous NSTA Area and National Conferences. These locations include: Minneapolis (2016), LA and Baltimore (2017), and Atlanta (2018). NSTA offers an extensive Awards and Recognition Program. Award recipients attend the black-tie gala at the yearly National Conference and are honored for their accomplishments. But this is not all…

NSTA also offers leadership opportunities. I’m currently serving in the Committee on Research in Science Teaching. There are multiple opportunities to serve in standing committees, advisory boards and panels. So, what are you waiting for?

I would like to thank Dr. Carolyn Hayes. I consider her my mentor. I met Dr. Hayes in my first national conference while she was serving as the President-elect for the NSTA. She was easy going and quick to offer suggestions to increase my profile as an educator.

Well…this is my story. I strongly encourage you to become involved. Applying for fellowships and awards is not for the faint of heart, it requires work. Yet, if you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life! Give yourself a chance and let your voice be heard. These are transcendental times, respond to my plea for becoming an agent of change and positively alter the future of education.

Paul Orbe, Ed.S.

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