Recently, speaking about my profession, my father told me, “I wish you’d done this 30 years ago,” while going through a photo album of my students at work. “I wasn’t ready 30 years ago,” I replied. “True,” he said, “I suppose it took that time for you to see what you could really do.” Then he went on to tell me a story about myself as a teacher.
He told me that ever since I was young I always attracted children to my side that were younger than I. No matter what I did or where we were, invariably I would end up taking care of, entertaining, or exploring with younger children. He said I was always a teacher. It was odd to hear my father express a view of myself that I never saw. I don’t even remember the examples from which he made this conclusion. Though I don’t remember this first half of my life in the way that he does, the second half of my life is all too clear that a teacher is what I have always been. For every instance I remember, for every job, for every country visited, and everywhere I’ve lived there have been children. From outdoor school to the Youth Conservation Corp, to being a tour guide on the Oregon coast, to recreation centers, to the kids I hired off the street for my business, to the volunteer time in school and workshops for teachers, to funding projects benefiting children, and to the work done in Costa Rica, everywhere there have been children.
And finally it dawned on me one day to become a teacher. I pursued that goal in Oregon and obtained my teaching license, taught at-risk students in high school biology and then middle school science. From there I went on to pursue my masters at WSU enjoying the success of that experience while simultaneously acting as director for WSU’s Camp Roger C. Larson and teaching the science methods course for pre-service teachers in elementary education under Dr. Lynda Paznokas. While at WSU I formulated my long-term goal of returning for my doctoral and teaching teachers, but before I could do that I knew that I needed more experience in the classroom in order to better prepare future teachers. With that in mind I returned to Oregon and taught 6th – 8th grade science and 6th grade English, received training under the International Baccalaureate program, then found another position that opened the door to teaching grades K – 4 (including the development of the entire curriculum for all five grades) at a small Montessori school on the Oregon coast.
I have also remained active in curriculum development and publishing, most notably creating the national invasive weeds curriculum for middle school science for the National Park Service. I continue collaborating with other scientists and teachers on a variety of other curriculum development projects. In 2004 I became the director of the Palouse Discovery Science Center, and developed much of the educational programming found there today. Through that, and with my involvement in the community teaching in the public schools and child care centers around Pullman, the concept of The Learning Center was developed, and in the fall of 2006 brought that concept to reality, opening The Learning Center in February of 2007.