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Reflection on Leadership and Collaboration

This past November I was able to attend VAST (Virginia Association of Science
Teachers) for the weekend in northern Virginia. The conference had insightful speakers, helpful
and interesting workshops, booths with endless resources, and wonderful networking
opportunities. The keynote speaker on Saturday morning was Principal Baruti Kafele. He spoke
about closing the attitude gap and how important it is for teachers and administration to help
students believe that they can succeed. He discussed how many students cant see the connection
between what theyre learning and what they can become. He also discussed the importance of
self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-adjustment because attitudes, of both teachers and
students, matter as well as intentionality and classroom climate and culture.
After hearing the keynote presentation, the first workshop I attended was specifically for
pre-service teachers. The speakers went over some first year tips and places to look for resources.
In addition, they provided every person with a First-Year Teachers Survival Kit with posters,
demonstration ideas, Flinn Scientific reference manual and free eye wear coupon, a $25 gift
certificate, sample safety contracts, and other safety reference materials. This session was
extremely helpful because of all the resources it provided me with as well as allowing me to hear
questions from other pre-service teachers and answers from seasoned teachers.
The next session I attended was Chemistry Labs and Projects. The teacher that led the
workshop had been teaching for many years and was very willing to share the labs that worked
best for her over the years. In addition to simply going over the labs, she related each to a
specific SOL area and clarified which levels (regular, honors, or AP) each lab worked best for.
By the end of the session, she had covered nearly 20 different labs. After the weekend was over,
she was even so kind as to send everyone the word document files for every lab she had
mentioned and if you hadnt attended VAST the year before (like me) she sent out all the labs she
covered the previous year as well. Having so many tried and true labs to work on or adapt for my
future classes made me feel more prepared for my first year.
After these first two sessions, we took a break for lunch where everyone from our
program gathered and got a chance to speak with Eric Rhoades, the Director of the Office of
Science and Health Education for Virginia. He provided us with insight into how the SOLs may
be changing and what school policy may be shifting in the future. I was also able to give him my
resume in case he heard of any job openings. Once lunch had finished, I spent time exploring the
exhibit hall. Many booths gave out free posters, magazines, coupons, and sample labs. I even
won a National Geographic Chemistry textbook.
Later, I attended a session about properly using field trips to extend and apply content
and how to use an iPhone app to help students create mini-presentations using puppets. As a
teacher, I would love to do field trips that are both engaging for students and content-related. Too
often field trips are either boring or completely unrelated to what is being covered in class. The
app we played with was also wonderful. Its a great way for students to show what they learned
quickly and creatively without having to stand at the front and present.

The final workshop I attended on Saturday was on 3D Printing. A group of pre-service


teachers and their supervisors walked us through pricing, design, and functionality of having a
3D printer in a classroom. It was extremely helpful and only strengthened my desire to have one
for my class someday. I even won two 3D printed models of periodic trends that I display on my
desk at school.
On Sunday, there was a second keynote speaker, Shah Selbe, an engineer and National
Geographic Explorer. He spoke about engineering for good and how finding your niche can help
change the world for good. He discussed his work with SoarOcean Conservation drones and the
Okavango Wilderness Project. He also brought up the tragedy of the ocean commons, the
wildlife trade, and the sixth mass extinction, problems that are very near to my heart after
spending time in South Africa researching and working with local conservation groups to study
the problems faced by both land and sea dwelling animals. It was an extremely insightful and
eye-opening presentation that left me feeling a need to not only work to save our planet, but to
inspire my future students to do the same. Overall, the VAST conference was helpful,
encouraging, and loaded with content I plan to use when I begin teaching.