Promoting Engaging, Authentic, and Meaningful Science Education

Sarah Berke


I have been actively engaged in formal and informal science education, trying to boost public, teacher, and student interest in science throughout my career.  Towards this, I am very excited by the opportunity to serve as your next STOM College Director.  

My love for science education became evident in my Ph.D. studies (University of Iowa; Neuroscience), where I developed a passion for science education while initiating outreach activities and serving on the Science and Engineering Board for the Iowa Children’s Museum.  After this experience, I wanted to travel a non-traditional science Ph.D. route, focusing on science education rather than bench research.  Therefore, after obtaining my Ph.D., I starting working at Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE) to design and implement new curricula biotechnology principles for students in grades 3-16.  I designed and conducted many teacher professional development workshops for in-service and pre-service teachers at local, regional, and national conferences. When I became the director of CURE’s educational outreach programs, I worked closely with the Connecticut State Department of Education to design inquiry-based investigations to meet the state standards.  Simultaneously, I served on the Connecticut Advisory Council for Teacher Professional Standards (3-year appointment) to evaluate teacher preparation, recruitment, retention, certification, professional development, and assessment and evaluation. 

In order to broaden my reach beyond biotechnology, I started my own science education outreach company, working with partners such as the Connecticut Children’s Museum and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology. Together, we developed a virtual reality exhibit on Mars and revamped existing physics curricula.  Through this work I developed a deeper understanding of science and the many technologies available to teachers and industry.  

A unique opportunity to become Director of the Molecular and Cell Biology Graduate Program at Quinnipiac University drew me into undergraduate and graduate education. While director, I taught graduate classes in the genetics of neurodegeneration and in molecular and cell biology, as well as undergraduate classes in anatomy and physiology.  I had the unique opportunity to partner with the Bristol Myers Squibb Center for Science Teaching and Learning (at Quinnipiac) where I designed and implemented teacher professional workshops in engineering and curriculum development, and created and ran summer camp experiences for area teens.  It was through this experience that I discovered engineering, the unique role it plays in science education, and how it can be used to integrate many scientific concepts.    

While I enjoyed my time at Quinnipiac, I missed my more direct work with K-12 education.  I felt that I had sufficient science knowledge and informal science education experience, but I was lacking formal science teaching.  Therefore, I accepted a position as a 4-8th grade science teacher at a local school.  In this position, I was charged with reworking and implementing the 4-8th grade science curricula.  Working closely with my fellow teachers, I designed an interdisciplinary hands-on, minds-on curriculum that integrates reading, writing, social studies, and mathematics.  I also served as the science consultant for teachers in grades K-3.  In this position, I learned about the many demands placed on our teachers while gaining a higher appreciation for good classroom management.    

As an Assistant Professor of Biology at Truman State University, I have found a way to blend my passion for boosting public, student, and teacher interest in science.  I teach biology and genetics to non-majors, and I have begun teaching science for elementary pre-service teachers.  I work closely with the education department to develop and implement pre-service and in-service teacher training initiatives. With a colleague, I submitted a grant to increase the number of science pre-service teachers at Truman. I work with pre-service teacher student organizations and provide teacher professional development workshops.  My research interests at Truman focuses on how science anxiety, motivation, and attitude impact science teaching and learning.  This is a wonderful blend of my different passions related to science education.

I am also actively involved in science education initiatives in my community. I serve as Vice-President of the Kirksville STEAM Alliance, which is a community organization that works with local businesses, school districts, and community partners to boost science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).  Through the STEAM Alliance, I have organized a 5th grade science fair and many mobile maker events (such as family engineering and tie dye chemistry), and I have run teacher professional development workshops.  

I believe my unique experiences as a formal and informal science educator in K-12, undergraduate, and graduate schools place me in a unique position to serve as your next STOM College Director.  I would consider it an honor to serve and look forward to working with you.


Science Teachers of Missouri 2017

Science Teachers of Missouri is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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