Week 4 Comment #1: Tom Draa

In this week’s reading the chapter that touched me the most was Chapter 9: Lighting a Spark.  I have always thought of that in terms of my responsibility as a science teacher to turn my students into future scientists.  I know not every student I teach biology to is not going to become a doctor or not every student I teach astronomy to is not going to become an astronaut, but that is the way I teach them.  That is how every teacher should present their subject matter.  If students don’t believe you love what you are teaching, it is hard to truly excite them.  I stay in contact with a lot of my former students, but since I teach primarily all freshman, by the time students graduate I know I am kind of lost in their high school memories.  Because of this, I do not stay in touch with more and get to find out what career paths they have chosen.  Also I have taught at three different schools over my thirteen years in the Clark County Scool District.


Three years ago I went to a series of lectures at UNLV given by several geologists on the topic of climate change and global warming and half way through one of the lectures I looked to my left and there sat Paloma Ortiz, a student I taught my first year of teaching at Desert Pines High School when she was a freshman taking earth science.  After the lecture I approached her and said hello and we ended up going to lunch when the lectures had ended and I got to find out a lot about what she does now and the reason why she chose her profession.  She is now a hydrogeologist at a environmental consulting firm in California.  She was actually in town to finish up her enrollment in the doctoral program in the UNLV College of Geosciences.  She credited me with interesting her in geology and even went as far as saying I was one of the reasons she is going back to school to get her phD.  It was such a validating experience to know that I was partly responsible for lighting that spark inside of her to study geology.


The last two years I have been teaching geology honors, a senior level science elective and during that time I have had four students that I know of declare geology as their major.  I asked one of them that I am close with what I did to spark their interest in geology and she just said it was because I seemed to love it so much that she began to pay attention to it because she wanted to know why I loved it so much.  I am so honored to be a teacher and have the opportunity to affect my student’s lives in a positive way.

My Comment to Tom:

Tom, I love hearing the stories of students recognizing teachers as their inspiration! I’m sure there are many others that you have inspired, but it was so touching that Paloma Ortiz was able to tell you that you inspired her to get her PhD. Those are the moments when you know for sure that you are making a huge difference in this world.

I have to tell you that I have a new respect for science teachers. I may have mentioned that science was always my worst subject in high school and college, but now I know that it’s all just a matter of perception. I didn’t do well in science because I never put that much effort into it, so I didn’t get the best grades, and I never felt encouraged or inspired to work hard and do well. I see how much you inspire your students and last year was the first year that I found a love for teaching science to my 4th graders. Now that I can teach science with passion and excitement, it’s made such a difference in the passion and excitement that I see from my students. I only teach science once a week, but you get to do that every day!

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