First Group of Professional Educators Jumps into Doctorate in Science Education

With online orientation beginning this month, teaching professionals from around Texas, New Mexico and as far away as New York are connecting with Texas Tech University as the first cohort of students in its new doctoral option specializing in science education.

Except for one, that is.

Joseph Acaba, from Seabrook, is an astronaut and former middle school and high school science teacher, who launched May 15 to the International Space Station. He will begin his coursework upon his return in about four months.

The College of Education unveiled the program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction earlier this year, inviting location-locked professional teachers and other science-types to pursue the doctoral option mostly at a distance, with courses starting in August. They will complete the coursework over a three-year period, and except for annual summer visits to Lubbock and three conferences, the plan won’t disrupt their jobs or family lives.

Aside from Acaba, the rest of the group comprises a mix of teachers, district coordinators and other science-types who desire to become better education leaders.

“There are people who are science coordinators for school districts, there are people who are a science person for their ESC, there are full time science teachers,” said Walter Smith, director of the program and Helen DeVitt Jones Professor of Education in the college. “There is one in technology, but he came from 10 to12 years in a science classroom; there’s a woman who taught middle grades science who became a principal and is now retired and is a consultant. They range in ages from about 30 to 55 or so with a mix of male and female.”

The cohort includes:

• Joe Acaba from Seabrook, astronaut and former middle and high school teacher

• Meredith Bell from Prosper, a Frisco Wakeland High School physics teacher

• Selena Connealy from Albuquerque, Albuquerque informal science

• Linda Cook from Coppell, Coppell science coordinator

• Thomas Davis from Blackwell, a high school physics and math teacher

• Courtney Gann from Abilene, Abilene-area high school chemistry teacher

• Jacqueline Garcia from Colleyville, an elementary science coordinator for Northwest ISD in Colleyville

• David Goodman from Vernon, a Vernon High School science teacher

• Zane Laws from Valera, a Cisco Community College science teacher and former middle and high school science and math teacher

• Dale McCurdy from Amarillo, an Amarillo Community College biology and education instructor; formerly a Kansas high school science teacher

• Karen McNallen from Mission, McAllen science coordinator

• Jill Nugent from Providence Village; informal science; former high school science teacher

• Gus Perez from Edinburg, science specialist in ESC Region 1

• Jean Pounder from Liverpool, N.Y., high school earth and physical sciences teacher

• Soleil Roper from Richmond, bilingual specialist; former science teacher

• Michael Sizemore from Lubbock, Lubbock ISD science coordinator

• Terry Sutton from Houston; education consultant; former science teacher and principal in Aldine ISD

• Staci Thomas from Hooks; assistant director, East Texas Regional Collaborative for Excellence in Science Teaching

• Kristin Whittenburg from Lubbock; ESC 17 Curriculum Specialist, former regional science specialist and science teacher

Applicants must have a master’s in science education or a closely related field, and three years of experience teaching science in K-12 or in informal science, such as a zoo or museum.

“To the best of my knowledge, we are alone among research universities in the U.S. in offering a blended delivery Ph.D. that specializes in science education, not including mostly online schools like the University of Phoenix,” Smith said.

The entire curriculum is online except for two weeks on campus face-to-face each summer (2013, 2014 and 2015) and attendance each spring (2013, 2014 and 2015) at a three-day national conference of a professional association. Those are the National Science Teachers Association in April 2013, Association for Science Teacher Education in January 2014, and National Association for Research in Science Teaching on a date to be decided in 2015.

The program will produce graduates who can make a difference in science education at the local, state, national or international level with skills attained for positions such as a science education researcher; school-based science education change agent; advocate for science education policy and practice; science teacher leader or global science educator.

Read more about the program.

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CONTACT: Walter Smith, Helen DeVitt Jones Professor of Education, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-1998 ext. 430, or walter.smith@ttu.edu.