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Lauren Twohey

Lauren Twohey has a lot of hustle. Three teaching credentials and 16 years in the classroom hasn’t slowed down her desire to learn and grow as a teacher. At all.

“I started off as a first grade teacher and then I decided to – through fate – teach high school English, so I got another teaching credential,” she says. “But I always loved science. I had always thought I’d be a middle school science teacher. So when NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) started to come down the pipeline, I thought, why not get a third credential?”

Why not, indeed?

The 2018 – 2019 school year was her first teaching middle school science. She started in a small, rural district and it was a challenge, to say the least. “They didn’t have an NGSS adopted curriculum yet. All the teachers were brand new to the school and basically new to teaching science. And we were all figuring it out as we went along.”

She began visiting the Teacher Resource Center (TRC) in the Henry Madden Library at Fresno State to find resources and help. There she found plenty of teaching materials as well as hands-on science kits for students to explore the subject in a more tactile, experiential way.

“I started pulling things like the crash test dummy kits to help my students learn some of Newton’s laws. It’s a kit that costs like $99.00 and I was able to borrow it for free. So I was here a lot,” Twohey laughs.

For Twohey, now earning her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at the Kremen School of Education at Fresno State, the Teacher Resource Center solves a lot of problems all at once.  “Teachers already don’t make that much money, so to be able to come in and use that for our class for no cost. . . it’s great. Another great resource is just seeing the variety of materials here. I didn’t even know that existed until I came in and saw it. Not just the hands-on stuff, but on the shelves out there, too. There’s curriculum you can see, there are picture books. . .so many different resources available through the TRC. Videos, music, so many things that can fill all kinds of holes for you in the classroom. And then you don’t have to pay for it.”

Filling in those holes in turn helps students learn more effectively and helps teachers like Twohey stay enthusiastic as educators.  The Teacher Resource Center can also take some of the pressure off of teachers and teaching students who use it.

“The librarians help a lot!” explains Twohey. “That was one of my biggest struggles. There is so much stuff out there on the internet and unfortunately not everything’s all that great. One of the best features here is actually the librarians . . .they have the tools.  Having an experienced person like a librarian help you narrow your search, that’s one of the best things about being here at the Library.”

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Twohey explains a simple experiment in thermodynamics using a tactile learning kit from the Teacher Resource Center.

Expanding that expertise is something Twohey is passionate about. She hopes to create an ever-growing hub of connected teachers learning from each other and from other experienced professionals, helping each other create more effective classrooms.

“One of the things I’m doing for my master’s project is I’m creating a STEM workshop for middle school teachers. The inspiration came from my own struggle as a middle school science teacher. I didn’t have a lot of resources. The Teacher Resource Center was a help, but I also wanted people to collaborate with. So through my master’s program, I found pockets of other middle school science teachers to collaborate with and to start gathering other resources. And so that’s what this Valley needs. We need that here.”

The Henry Madden Library is prepared to help and the Teacher Resource Center will be the venue for the two-day workshop scheduled for January 25 and February 22, 2020. Twohey has lined up several sponsors who have donated materials to the workshop, including Carolina Biological, Algae Research Supply Company, Backyard Brains, and Vernier. The intention will be to help educators teaching grade 6 – 8 science in rural districts, low-socioeconomic districts, charter schools, and private schools to collaborate on lesson planning, establish a network of support, and to become aware of resources available to them and their classrooms, including the resources available in the Teacher Resource Center at the Henry Madden Library.

If you’d like help support middle school science teachers in the Valley, you can contribute to Lauren Twohey’s workshop funding site here: https://www.supportful.com/stemworkshop
Post by Heather Parish.
Photos by David Celaya.