Part of what drew high school science teacher Aria Bauman to the classroom is that every day is different. “You get to problem solve on your feet,” she says. “It never gets boring. You never know what to expect.”
Case in point: coronavirus. The disease has created an unexpected turn of events for teachers, who must quickly switch to remote instruction. Fortunately for Bauman, a 2015 graduate of the Teacher Education Program (TEP), her transition to teaching online has been smooth, in part thanks to the training she received at UC Santa Barbara.
“[The TEP] builds your toolbox,” Bauman says. “Even though you know generally how to react in a situation, [the program] gives you more things to pull out in response to challenges.” One such tool was digital literacy in the classroom. Through classes focused on incorporating technology into instruction, Bauman was able to practice building websites and creating blended (i.e. part digital) lessons, particularly useful skills in the face of coronavirus.
With the closure of the high school building where she teaches biology, Bauman has had to adapt her curriculum on the fly as she migrates online.
All things considered, Bauman says she thinks remote instruction is going pretty well. She’s getting better at choosing the online simulations she uses to replace in-person labs and at writing clear and concise instructions. Her digital literacy and technology troubleshooting skills are improving, and she plans to incorporate some of these virtual activities into her curriculum in the future.
“The most frustrating part,” she says, “is that I got into this profession because I wanted to be here to support students and to interact with them, and now the only interactions are virtual. The distance is challenging.” Moreover, “the students are starved for social interaction.”
In response to these challenges, Bauman is focusing on using Zoom more effectively and working peer-to-peer collaboration into her curriculum. She recently received permission to teach from her classroom, so she also hopes to get students involved by Zooming with her class while she conducts labs.
A the least, the students learning from their homes does allow for levity, like sharing jokes at the beginning of Zoom sessions and hosting pet show-and-tells.
“I really think humor, exuding positivity, and being flexible are the best ways to keep students engaged,” Bauman says. “Different kiddos have various challenges in these crazy times, so it is really important to make them all feel supported and heard.”
Centering Her Efforts on STEM
So how did she end up teaching science? “I love science and wanted to share that joy and passion,” says Bauman, who as an undergraduate transferred from UC Berkeley to UCSB, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology (with an emphasis in ecology and evolution) and a minor in Science and Mathematics Education. Through TEP, she received a single subject teaching credential in biological science, specialized biological science, and physics as well as her master’s in education.
“I really like that I can get into conversations at the high school level that push my own thinking and challenge me to create novel labs and design experiments that will make my class think and ask great questions and then we can have great discussions,” Bauman says.
Bauman’s student teaching placements through TEP helped solidify her inclination toward pursuing high school teaching. She was first placed in a biology course at Santa Barbara High School. Her next placement was at La Colina Junior High School in a seventh grade science classroom during the sex education and genetics units. She returned to the same classroom at Santa Barbara High for her final placement.
“It was really helpful to have the time to observe other teachers,” Bauman says. “Watching what other professionals did, seeing strategies they used, testing those out for myself, watching what worked, what didn’t, that time was really valuable.” Also helpful was the ability to receive student reaction and feedback from her UCSB supervisors and to share ideas and materials with her cooperating teachers.
As an additional placement, she participated in a teacher exchange, teaching chemistry and English for one month in Denmark. Bauman says Danish students are given “so much trust and responsibility from a young age” and “live up to those high expectations. There is a beautiful mutual respect born of that. I really try to always keep that in mind in my own teaching.”
TEP gave Bauman a “safe space to figure out who I was going to be when I led my own class,” she says. “Having different placements, getting to test out middle school and high school, and getting to try all the strategies before I was on my own was invaluable.”
Bauman says the TEP workload is “difficult, but it really makes you feel prepared when you get into your first year teaching.” Her first fulltime teaching job was at Pacifica High School in Oxnard, where she taught a sophomore biology class and AP Environmental Science. She now teaches AP Biology and three two-hour long sections of freshman biology at San Lorenzo Valley High School in Felton (Santa Cruz), where she also serves as the Science Department Chair. She is also the high school representative for her district on the BaySci county-wide initiative that supports the nationwide integration of New Generation Science Standards.
So Much Support from TEP
TEP provided Bauman a variety of resources and support. She was named a Hearst Scholar and awarded the Gevirtz Fellowship. She was also the first recipient of the Lubchenco-Gaines Fellowship for single subject credential candidates in biology, an honor that “felt really significant to me,” Bauman says, since one of the donors, Peggy Lubchenco, was also Bauman’s supervisor.
Receiving these honors made Bauman “feel really supported by my program, really valued, and validated that the work I was putting in was appreciated, that I was doing a good job,” she says. Additionally, the fellowships made the program, which involves full days at partner school sites and evening UCSB classes, feel a lot more sustainable financially.
The support of Bauman’s single subject science cohort gave her the opportunity to bounce ideas off peers. “You never feel alone, and you always have someone to hear you out and offer you a helpful suggestion,” she says. She distinctly remembers Halloween in her science methods course led by one of her supervisors, Sue Johnson. “That just sticks with me as a great day,” she says. “The feeling of being surrounded by people who all have the same goal as you with corresponding enthusiasm. You could just feel the energy.”
And they’re still there for each other to this day: Bauman says she’s been commiserating and sharing strategies for remote instruction with fellow science cohort members.
Moreover, through collaboration within the larger single subject cohort, Bauman could interact with people from all subject areas and design learning sequences that considered the perspective of every subject, important opportunities that are rare in a normal school setting, she says.
Bauman says the support of her science content supervisors, Johnson and Lubchenco, was particularly important. “They are just so passionate about what they do,” says Bauman. “They are so supportive of whatever you need because really at the end of the day, you can tell they just want quality science instructors in our classrooms.”
This year, Bauman came full circle when she welcomed a student teacher into her classroom. Now, Bauman is the cooperating teacher.