This summer, APSCUF is going behind the scenes to show how faculty members and coaches continue to devote themselves to affordable, quality education even when class is not in session.
During my interview for my current position at Shippensburg University in 2005, the search-committee chair explained that many of my responsibilities would center on communicating between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and Human Services. Although I am officially housed in the Department of Chemistry, I am also responsible for teaching senior-level pedagogy courses for pre-service secondary science teachers and supervising student teachers in classrooms throughout central Pennsylvania. As anyone familiar with academia will attest, crossing the boundaries between different colleges on a university campus is certainly a challenge.
I, however, have come to enjoy this aspect of my work, even though it necessitates my attending more than the usual number of meetings, serving on more than the usual number of task forces, and writing more than the usual number of reports. With my serving as chair of the Department of Chemistry for the past five years, my extracurricular responsibilities have greatly increased. In the past year, for example, I have written accreditation reports for the American Chemical Society and the National Science Teachers Association. I also wrote our mandatory, five-year departmental review and arranged for two external consultants who were impressed with what our department accomplished with respect to teaching and undergraduate research with minimal time allocated in our workload and with basic resources. This is all in addition to lesson preparation, classroom instruction, office hours, and the standard slate of department chair responsibilities. The latter have grown as faculty positions are cut and administrative positions are created. Few, if any, of us have “summers off.”
Of course, routine tasks can be tiresome, and they sometimes seem to offer no tangible benefit. Much of this, however, recedes into relative insignificance since I am able to have such a diverse and rich career serving future chemists, science teachers, regional schools, and departmental and university colleagues. I am able to make professional contributions via publications and conference presentations in chemical education and science-teacher education. I’ve also had the opportunity to develop a STEM-specific Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program for second-career teachers, and Shippensburg University is being considered as one of the partner institutions for the Woodrow Wilson National Teaching Fellowship program. The chemistry department also hosts an elementary chemistry day camp each summer that just celebrated its 10th anniversary. We still hear from students years later about how this outreach effort positively impacted their lives.
Although it was something I’ve never intended on doing, I took my interest in the historical interactions between science and religion and developed a course for our honors program as well as in-demand outreach to churches in the region. This has enabled me to be one of the “go to” people in science-teacher education for how to prepare teachers to present concepts with religious implications.
I am grateful to Shippensburg for all of these opportunities to teach and serve. In particular, I deeply respect the work that our APSCUF colleagues do to preserve our multiple roles as teachers, scholars, mentors, grassroots university leaders and reformers, and community liaisons. Our jobs extend far beyond the basic classroom and office-hours requirements.
Joseph W. Shane is an associate professor of chemistry and science education at Shippensburg University.