California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) alumna Tania Hughes turned her background in art and architecture toward creating engaging ways to teach elementary school science, which led the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) to select her as its 2013 Future Science Teacher Award winner.
Hughes, the ninth CSULB honoree since 2005, received her B.A. in liberal studies and multiple subject teaching credential this year through the university’s Integrated Teacher Education Program, which enables students to earn both in four to five years. The CSTA award comes with a $1,000 prize provided by SeaWorld San Diego.
Originally from Magalia, Calif., near Chico, she moved to Southern California in 2004, earning an A.A. in art and A.S. in architecture from El Camino College in Torrance before transferring to Cal State Long Beach.
During her CSULB Science Education Department courses and credential preparatory work in the Long Beach Unified School District, Hughes developed new fourth grade electricity and magnetism and second grade geology teaching units and co-organized a Family Science Night that John G. Whittier Elementary School adopted as a regular event.
She’s now on a new adventure, serving a 27-month Peace Corps assignment in Mozambique. “One exciting thing is that although I am here to train future Mozambican teachers how to teach English, I am here with other volunteers who will be teaching biology, physics and mathematics—subjects many have never even thought to teach,” she said. “I have been given the opportunity to share my science experiences, brainstorm teaching techniques and encourage them while they explore what it means to be a teacher.”
Her plans remain fluid. The possibility of extending her Peace Corps Mozambique work for a year or eventually earning California Science and Math Single Subject credentials that would enable her to also teach in middle or high schools are exciting prospects, she said.
CSULB Science Education Professor William Straits, who nominated Hughes for the award, noted, “It became clear that Tania demonstrated a passion and understanding for subjects beyond science and would regularly make connections between the science we were learning and other content areas.”
Hughes, in turn, appreciates her CSULB education. “I was skeptical to be nominated and apply for this award as I am not a science-only teacher. However, Dr. Straits is an extremely persuasive and supportive mentor who has helped me, through a multitude of enthusiastic encouragements, accomplish things I never thought that I could,” Hughes said. “I know that I am a better science teacher because of him and I am still dumbfounded and incredibly honored that he would even consider me for this award.”