A Salt Lake City middle school teacher has been chosen by the National Science Teachers Association to participate in a yearlong professional development program.
Mark Towner is only in his second year teaching biology at Granite Park Middle School in Salt Lake City. He was a research biologist but then decided to go into teaching to give back to the community.
Towner, along with 184 other teachers nationwide, will learn how to promote quality science teaching, improve teacher content knowledge, enhance teacher confidence and promote classroom excellence. He will also work with a veteran teacher, participate in Web seminars and attend the NSTA National Conference in Philadelphia.
Towner feels he was selected because of the life experiences he can incorporate into teaching.
"This award is very important to Granite Park Junior High, the Granite School District and the state of Utah because it shows that professionals who have developed decades of life experience can pass that on to a younger generation," Towner said. "Instead of talking about science from a textbook, I have lived the science in the freezing cold of Alaska," he added.
Towner hopes to plug into a network of "crazy scientists" and be involved in a clearinghouse of ideas and experiments to improve his teaching.
The 2009 fellows were selected on the basis of several criteria including science background and interest in improving as a science educator.
Towner hopes the program will help him improve the lives of his students. "I am teaching eighth-grade science to Hispanic, African and Iraqi kids that will likely never have the opportunities that I have already lived," Towner said.
He added, "I have come to love these kids, and I just want to expose them to as many experiences as possible before the realities of their lives will likely take over."