A science teacher working in a Title I school in South Salt Lake City has been chosen to receive a national award.
Mark E. Towner, a biology teacher at Granite Park Junior High School, was one of 185 science teachers selected nationwide to be a Science Teacher Fellow by the National Science Teacher Association for the 2009-2010 school year. This year will be Towner’s second teaching at the school.
“I love working with kids [and] I love science,” Towner said.
Before becoming a teacher, Towner was a research biologist. He was also founder and CEO of his own company before retiring from the private sector in 2003.
Towner said he decided to pursue teaching because he “wanted to give back to the community.” He also wanted to help fill the ongoing shortage of math and science teachers in the public schools.
Currently, Towner is working as a biology teacher while pursuing a master’s degree in education. Towner is pursuing higher education while working as part of the Alternative Route to Teacher Licensure Program through the state of Utah, a program designed to attract qualified individuals to teach in their field of expertise while completing licensure requirements.
Towner said he learned about the opportunity for the NSTA Science Fellow award through Todd Campbell, Ph.D., an assistant science professor teaching one of the classes Towner’s taking at Utah State University.
According to the website, the NSTA was “founded in 1944 and headquartered in Arlington, Va. [It] is the largest organization in the world committed to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA's current membership of 60,000 includes science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives and others involved in and committed to science education.”
Benefits of the award include the opportunity to participate in professional development, mentoring programs, an invitation to the NSTA national conference and access to online pedagogy programs to help develop classroom skills and science lesson plans.
Towner said he hopes that his time as an NSTA Science Teacher fellow will provide him the opportunity to better serve the students of Granite Park Jr., many of whom are economically disadvantaged.