Talking Point: Q&A with Steve Rodecker

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About Perspectives on Science
Perspectives on Science (POS) is a monthly seminar series for science teachers. The seminar typically focuses on recent developments in the guest scientist’s area of expertise with particular emphasis on aspects relevant to science teachers. The 2012-13 line-up includes five members of the National Academy of Sciences: Terrence Sejnowski, David Sandwell, J. William Schopf, Don Cleveland, and Andrew Viterbi.

About Steve Rodecker
Steve Rodecker has been a regular attendee at POS since its inception and has recently become a POS financial supporter. Rodecker began his 33rd year of teaching this fall with the last 27 years spent at Chula Vista High School (CVHS) in the Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego. Since 2000, Rodecker has worked half time at CVHS and half time at the district as a science specialist helping with science resources: producing Common Formative Assessments, leading science meetings in the district, coordinating the district science fair, and providing science education information to the district’s 206 science teachers.

Q&A
Nobel Laureate Dr. Francis Crick, speaking at a POS event in 1999

Q: How did you first hear about Perspectives on Science?
A: As a science resource person, I received information about the first PLNU Perspectives on Science when it originated. I not only sent the information to all of our teachers, I recognized this program as a unique opportunity to stay abreast of current research in science as told by the researchers themselves. I attended the first year and every year thereafter.

Q: What does POS mean to you as an educator?
A: Discoveries and developments in science happen constantly—and very quickly. After we leave college, it is difficult for us as science teachers to keep our knowledge base current. Journals and science magazines can help somewhat, but there is nothing that takes the place of the actual scientists talking passionately about their research. The one-hour talks followed by Q&A time represent the distilled essence of the scientist’s work and a chance for us to respond to it. I have integrated information from many talks I have heard directly into lectures or activities and used some as a basis for science fair projects.

Q: There have been a lot of amazing speakers at POS over the years. Are there a few who really stand out for you?
A: Nobel Prize winners Francis Crick (physiology/medicine) and Roger Tsien (chemistry) and neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran stand out.

Q: Andrew Viterbi, Qualcomm co-founder and recipient of the National Medal of Science in 2007, is coming this year. How significant is that?
A: This is an indication of the significance of the PLNU POS program. It is rare even at a science educator conference to see speakers of this influence. Only a university with a program like POS has the resources and gravitas to invite such people—and have them accept.

Q: When you learned that the grant that had been funding POS had expired, you stepped up and gave a gift to help keep the program running. Why?
A: The numerous testimonials of PLNU POS teacher participants through the years say it best. For them, the PLNU POS is an “intellectual and academic oasis” and “the kind of professional development that is hard to come by.” They say: “Hearing top-notch scientists is exciting and invigorating,” “My students love the information I bring back into my classroom,” “It lets my students know that I am still a student,” “POS is a vital part of my continuing education,” “POS provides time for interactions and networking with colleagues.” I adamantly agree with all of them, and I wanted to make sure this kind of unique, knowledge-based science professional development continued.

Q: Others have since joined you in supporting POS financially. What does that mean to you?
A: In this era of financial insecurity in educational funding, when many of us have received cuts in pay or a pink slip, it is nice to know that we still are willing to support unique, quality programs that offer so much intellectual stimulation.

Q: How has POS shaped your view of PLNU’s science programs and faculty?
A: When students ask me about universities here in the area, I always mention the quality of the Point Loma Nazarene University science programs since I am familiar with them. I know one of my students attended PLNU in the 1990s and later continued for an MD. Drs. Darrel Falk and Michael McConnell have both put in a huge amount of work getting the POS program started and especially keeping it funded through the years. Grants often provide seed money and require sustainability, which seldom occurs. The PLNU POS program has sustained itself because of the efforts of Professors Falk and McConnell to convince funders of the quality of this program. Their friendliness and approachability make it a pleasure to work with them.

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