Share Your Story! winner Tory Temple talks about his personal journey to becoming a STEM educator.
My story begins with a desire to help others in the same way Dr. B. rescued me. Dr. B., who is a legendary sports medicine doctor, helped me overcome a neuro-muscular development disorder. When I was 13 I was told I’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Dr. B. proved otherwise. With his support, I persevered and went on to high school and college in strong health, ultimately attaining a double major in chemistry and biology. My next goal was to seek out meaningful work in support of others. When, I reached out to Dr. B. to share with him my plans his reply was a little jarring. He basically said, “Don’t do it. I know why you want this and you’re going to be very disappointed.” Despite his protests, I felt compelled to follow a path to enhance and change lives.
Perhaps it's because I inherited my mom’s Diva genes, she was an opera singer in Paris, I was attracted to the classroom. I felt it would be a place where I could build people, make a difference, and maybe host a captive audience every 54 minutes! While being a good presenter of information is important, I soon realized that true education is more than just entertaining an audience. The design for learning environments is a carefully constructed and meticulously executed flowing chorus of diverse needs and challenging content. What I had in sheer force of personality, needed to be guided by pedagogical skill and understanding. What happened next started a personal revolution.
Over the next 10 years I completed a masters in educational technology and became an instructor at Azusa Pacific University where I could continue to learn how to apply technology through innovative learning environment engineering. In 2003, with the help of some talented students and fellow teachers, I constructed Boldly Going - a fully immersive classroom simulation of a starship bridge tasked with an impossible job. Here, students would conduct a CSI-like investigation to discover the incoming threat to our solar system. Education met entertainment and it made nationwide news when it won the Subaru National Science Teaching Award. One parent joked saying that it seemed absolutely criminal that I got paid to have this much fun and still send the kids home talking about the wonders of the plants.
Boldly Going was a great start, but bigger issues lurked. I continued my research into neurosensory experience-based media-rich learning environments building products like “Atom & Quark” and mesascietific.org. The biggest challenge came when I moved from the wealthiest city in Riverside County to one of the poorest. I wanted to see if all that I had learned could make a difference in the lives of these students who had all the odds stacked against them. Through my doctoral program at Boise State University, I’ve come to understand some very key elements of social behavior, school performance, and culture. Using these insights I engineered the AREA154: Apocalypse Division. Students belong to a “covert special access government program” that teaches students the STEM skills to survive five different highly plausible end-of-the-world scenarios. According to the school administration, feedback shows solid progress. The school now uses the program to teach many of the most hard-to-reach students in this community.
I've learned so much through this journey and am excited to deepen my understanding of the Framework for Teaching as another way to stretch and grow as a teacher and to support my STEM students.
Chemistry/Interdisciplinary Science Teacher
San Jacinto, California