What is like for a science teacher to attend their first NSTA conference? NSTA’s WebNews Editor Kristin Collins decided to find out by “shadowing” a first-time attendee on the first day of the association’s National Conference on Science Education in St. Louis. NSTA member Kyla Dominick agreed to this effort.
Dominick is an eighth grade science teacher at Hutchinson Middle School in Hutchinson, Kansas. She teaches physical and life science. Dominick is in third year of teaching and is pursuing her Master of Arts in teaching through the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. She has also completed coursework for an ESL endorsement. Outside of the classroom, Dominick coaches students in track and volleyball. She also enjoys many outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, and canoeing.
Kyla Dominick organizes some buttons with
attendee Joan Jouriles of Columbia, Missouri,
during a workshop called Engaging Inquiry
Activities for Middle School.
Dominick attended a variety of sessions on the first day of the St. Louis national conference. These sessions included the Preservice and New Teacher breakfast and a workshop titled Engaging Inquiry Activities for Middle School. Dominick also spent time browsing the Exhibition of Science Teaching Materials, also known as the Exhibit Hall.
In the Q&A below, Dominick explains her decision to attend the St. Louis national conference, shares her thoughts and insights on the sessions she attended, and offers some advice for teachers who are considering attending an NSTA conference for the first time.
How did you learn about NSTA’s National Conference on Science Education in St. Louis?
“I learned of the conference through someone else’s Advance Program. It was sent to a retired teacher at my school. I looked at this and said ‘wow.’ I then asked my administrator if I could go. He said we had some money for professional development. He also suggested sending an e-mail to other teachers to see if anyone else was going.”
Why did you decide to attend the St. Louis national conference?
“I’m working on my Master of Arts in teaching and focusing on assessment and active learning. I needed to go and find some ideas. I want to engage my students in learning. I’m here to pick people’s brains and see what they have to offer.”
How did you plan for the conference?
“I went online and ordered a visitor’s guide so I could get accustomed to the area. I also went online [to the NSTA website] to look at all the different activities and found it confusing. I did not know about the online personal scheduler for the conference. Not knowing made it more overwhelming. However, I plan to go online tonight and use it.”
What are the benefits for a new teacher in attending the Preservice and New Teacher breakfast?
“As a new teacher you get to see the things you are experiencing as other teachers are experiencing them…the same difficulties and successes. You realize you are not the only one. It makes you feel normal. I would definitely recommend this session. As someone who is not a preservice teacher, but rather a new teacher, I feel I have something I can offer.”
How is going to a workshop designed for your grade level beneficial?
“If I went to a high school workshop, it would be too advanced for my students. Going to a workshop for your grade level can help you relate to what you have to teach. It’s so neat that there are so many workshops for the different grade levels.
“What drew me to the [middle school] workshop was the inquiry. Hands-on activities are very important to me. You have to make abstract concepts concrete for students. That’s why hands-on activities are important.”
First-time attendee Kyla Dominick looks over
some books at the Exhibit Hall.
What did you think of the Exhibit Hall?
“It’s a little overwhelming. You don’t know where to start! For the first conference, I would suggest visiting all the booths, then you can pick and choose for the next conference.”
How can visiting the Exhibit Hall benefit a science teacher?
“There are so many resources and ideas. By looking at the demonstrations you can help your students better understand.”
What kind of follow-up work will you do when you return home from the conference?
“Most of the time when we go to conferences we present to teachers in our building. So, I will probably give a presentation at an inservice meeting. I will also probably ask my administrator for some funding to purchase some of the resources and materials that I’ve seen here. He rarely says no. I have a great boss. If there is no money, he tries to find some.”
What advice do you have for science teachers who are considering attending their first NSTA conference?
“Even though you don’t know what to expect, you should try to plan out your day. There’s so much to see and do.”