Board of Directors Election | 2021-2023 Term

The Nominations Committee of the California Association of Science Educators presents the following information regarding candidates for election of directors to the CASE Board of Directors for the 2021-2023 term. Your vote is in the selection of the leadership of CASE is critically important. It is through your elected leaders that the direction of the association is determined. We encourage you to be proactive in exercising your voting rights and select the board that will lead CASE.

Elections are now open. You must be a current member in order to vote as of the date election opens, not thereafter. Most members will receive their ballots via email. Some will receive paper ballots in the mail. Per CASE elections procedures, only members who are a member on the date of record (March 18, 2021) are eligible to vote. If you did not receive a ballot, please contact the office at 916-979-7004 or election(at)cascience.org.


Debbie Gordon

Debbie Gordon is an active member of the CASE Board of Directors, a former classroom teacher, Project Director for the K12-Alliance Early Implementation Initiative, and current science TOSA for Palm Springs Unified School District. She works with teachers and administrators on a local, regional, and state level to increase the quality of NGSS-aligned science instruction and learning while always keeping the needs of all students front and center. She enjoys college football games, bowling, and taking hikes in the mountains surrounding Palm Springs. She has two grown children and a dog named Rocky.

What a crazy year this has been! The need for quality science education may be more important than ever. I believe science for all is a right, not a privilege. It is up to us to find ways to reach all our students, to be responsive to their needs, to be stewards of their passions and dreams. Through distance learning, zoom meetings, virtual conferences, or face-to-face I have no doubt that we will continue to put in the hard work to advocate for our students' rights. Quality science education is simply the cornerstone of a healthy society and I will be humbled to continue this work as President-Elect along with you.

Having been on the Board of Directors for CASE the last three years I am continually impressed by the determination and enthusiasm of each and every member to do the very best they can in the on-going hope of bringing high-quality science education to all students from the youngest child to our young adults. I do not take my part in this endeavor lightly. In contrast, I find great joy and humility in being able to be a voice for the necessity of science to conquer illness, explore vast universes, and make everyday life more enjoyable. I hope to continue to learn from and lead forward this organization and its members.

Alyssa Nemeckova-Fairfield

Alyssa Nemeckova-Fairfield
Alyssa is the current Upper Elementary Director for the California Association of Science Educators. Her day job is a K-5 instructional coach for Palm Springs Unified School District, with 8 years of classroom experience in upper elementary. Alyssa is on the Core Leadership team for the NGSS Early Implementers. She is a co-author of the 4th grade Learning Sequence: Rube Goldberg, and author of the 4th grade Dangerous Earth Learning Sequence, part of the CASE Climate Summit. Additionally she has written and facilitated for the NGSS Collaborative Rollouts/Implementations.

Science education is something that needs to be taught at all grade levels from pre-k through the universities. Science drives us forward. We need to nurture wonder, curiosity and a love of science to move forward as a society. We also understand the workings of the world around us to be able to make informed decisions about legislation and its impacts. Teaching of science is more than teaching content. Students need to experience science in the way it is done and in their thinking. To build upon their innate sense of curiosity to explore the world around them. They should build upon their current understanding of the world to explain new experiences.

The role of CASE is to promote high quality science education. In this manner CASE ensures that science continues to be a part of our society. CASE is the first supporter of science teachers across all grade levels. CASE and its collective members provide a community for teachers to come together to collaborate on the best ways to deliver science instruction, and address issue of equity within science education. They support California science teachers by advocating for science education with the California Department of Education and through Legislation.


Leena Bakshi

Leena Bakshi is passionate about science education for all students. She founded the educational nonprofit, STEM 4 Real, that provides teacher professional learning and socially just instructional materials that promote antiracism and access in the STEM classrooms. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in integrative biology. She received her master’s degree in math and science teaching from Claremont Graduate University and her doctoral degree in educational leadership from USC. As a former teacher and county office employee, Leena has worked with all levels of leadership to institute systemic science reform.

My science teaching philosophy is centered around social justice in our science teaching practice. In order to truly achieve equity and access in science education, we must look at systems that can allow for diverse voices to represent our student populations. My “Students First” motto drives my passion for equity and social justice in science. I have always used this philosophy as a teacher, administrator, and nonprofit director that is dedicated to making a positive impact for students in STEM education. It has been an honor to serve on the Board of CASE and I hope to continue our fight for educational equity in science education.

CASE has incredible influence stemming from the classroom level all the way to the state capitol. I believe that our organization has grown and continues to grow such that we are a strong force that is advocating for science education every day. We can continue to foster partnerships with the entire education community, including other education organizations, so that we can truly reach all students in a united effort to achieve educational equity. Our strength in numbers allows us to reach all grade levels, especially elementary education, thus setting the foundation for a comprehensive and equitable K-16 science education.


Kelli Quan-Martin

Kelli Quan-Martin is the incumbent CASE Region 1 Director and currently the K-12 Science Program Specialist in Elk Grove USD and a teacher leader with the Sacramento Area Science Project. In addition to teaching middle school science for ten years, she also has experience as a science TOSA and district administrator. Her passion for science, commitment to student learning, and dedication to equity are evident in the work she has done in her district and greater Sacramento area supporting educators with the implementation of NGSS and advocating for high-quality science instruction..

The role of science education is more than just preparing youth for a future workforce. Science education promotes inquiry and critical thinking. Giving students opportunities to ask “why” and “how” and encouraging students to seek out evidence and formulate explanations builds on our natural curiosities and has the power to ignite a passion for lifelong learning. As science educators, we have the chance to cultivate a generation that is empowered to ask questions and solve problems. We have the ability to offer all of our students access to a future full of possibilities and opportunities to change the world.

CASE consistently prioritizes the needs of students and educators. Whether advocating at state or local levels, organizing professional learning, or cultivating leaders in education, CASE’s actions are rooted in a belief that all students should have access to high-quality science instruction in order to develop scientific and environmental literacy. CASE is a community of educators. We need to strengthen our community by more widely communicating the learnings of each other and providing resources so that no single teacher ever feels unsupported during this time of immense change in (science) education. As stated by Helen Keller, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”


Gail Atley

Gail Atley has been a high school Chemistry, AP Chemistry and Engineering teacher for 17 years in Los Angeles. Prior to teaching, she worked in the Aerospace and Telecommunications industries as an Engineer, Program Manager and Marketing Director. She has served in many roles while teaching, including Activities Director, WASC Chairman, trainer, mentor, curriculum developer and golf coach. Her passion is teaching science and reading/literacy. She is an ‘out of the box’ thinker, strong advocate for children’s education and a team player. She enjoys reading spy novels, racewalking, cooking and fiber arts.

What an exciting time to be a science educator! The President has made science a central theme in his administration; a life-saving vaccine is deployed in less than 1 year; commercial rockets are launched into space, and we have amazing computing power in the palms of our hands. I became a teacher after a career in aerospace and telecom, and I have been a passionate advocate for science literacy - creating opportunities for kids to work, think and create as scientists. Our children deserve the best that we can offer so they can be contributors for computing, health, transportation, and even space exploration.

CASE is on the move! We are expanding our reach with amazing webinars, professional development opportunities and our annual conference. Every one of us, from members to the board and our partners are committed to offering high quality science education to students in California. I believe that CASE is grounded with the challenges at hand, particularly during this pandemic, and that every member has a voice and the opportunity to become involved. I am looking forward to working as your Region 3 Director to ensure that all science educators are informed about the latest news, trends and methods to deliver excellence in their classrooms, and to their schools and districts.

Annie Ransom

Annie Ransom is an exceptional NGSS teacher and instructional coach. She is passionate about advocating for science education in Region 3 and throughout the State. She has been involved in a number of organizations that bring together schools, families, and community partners to improve science education for all such as the CA Science Project, CA Partnership for Math and Science Education, kidSTREAM Children's Museum, and directing the Ventura County STEMposium (which served educators throughout Region 3). Annie would be honored to serve as the voice for Region 3 and is excited about the chance to empower science educators.

Annie Ransom is an exceptional NGSS teacher and instructional coach. She is passionate about advocating for science education in Region 3 and throughout the State. She has been involved in a number of organizations that bring together schools, families, and community partners to improve science education for all such as the CA Science Project, CA Partnership for Math and Science Education, kidSTREAM Children's Museum, and directing the Ventura County STEMposium (which served educators throughout Region 3). Annie would be honored to serve as the voice for Region 3 and is excited about the chance to empower science educators.

Science education should be focused on teaching kids to figure out local phenomena. Students must learn how to think like scientists and practice the skills needed to analyze information, test hypotheses, and communicate their current thinking regarding the phenomenon. Scientific thinking is a social endeavor that is best conducted in groups, allowing students to develop ideas collaboratively and present the ideas for peer review. Another critical aspect of science education is that it facilitates the opportunity for students to learn and connect with their own community, allowing for students to take action with real problems affecting their lives.

CASE is an invaluable organization in the fight for high-quality, inclusive science education for all students. CASE plays an instrumental role in 1) advocacy at the CA state level for prioritizing science in educational policy, 2) fostering relationships and partnerships between science educators at all levels of formal and informal instruction, and 3) providing vast and varied resources that support science literacy in California. The work of CASE ensures educators and students all over California a voice in the fight for statewide science literacy and a safe space where we can feel at home in our science community.

Lizette Ashcroft

Lizette Ashcraft teaches second grade at Julia B. Morrison Elementary in Norwalk, California. Her favorite subject to teach is science because the children forget about recess and want to stay inside to do more investigations. She loves second graders because they love to talk about dinosaurs, dirt and insects. She lives with her husband and son in Lakewood, California and in her spare time, she enjoys cooking, reading and dancing.

Hands-on learning plays a vital role for scientists in all fields. All of the sciences require tactile training, especially if the scientist's life depends on it. For example, astronauts require highly specialized training to survive in an inhospitable environment. NASA sets the bar high in their field of excellence, and it is my desire to set a high standard of quality as well. It is my firm belief that hands-on learning is indispensable in the classroom. Science education helps students understand the world around them and to think critically about the information they receive.

CASE support of science education through advocacy and professional development makes implementation of science education easier for all K-12 teachers, especially elementary educators. CASE is the voice of elementary teachers who know that science can unlock closed doors for children in poverty and motivate children with learning disabilities. Fresh ideas in both curriculum and pedagogy energizes an elementary teacher's passion for new units of study. Most importantly, it is the children who receive the greatest benefit of CASE’s mission and values. Children get to discover whole new worlds.

Claudio Vargas

Claudio Vargas is a semi-retired science educator. He provides learning experiences for science educators with a focus on supporting Multilingual Learners with language and literacy development. Mr. Vargas serves on local and state boards and committees tasked with ensuring access and equity in science. Previously, Mr. Vargas was the Science Program Coordinator at Oakland USD, where he led the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. Before joining OUSD, he served as the Director of the Bay Area Science Project at Lawrence Hall of Science. Prior to that, Mr. Vargas worked as a bilingual elementary teacher in OUSD and as a researcher at the School of Pharmacy at UCSF.

At this critical time in our history, when decisions are being made that will have a global impact for decades to come, it is imperative that every child is provided with the tools to become scientifically literate, to learn how to make informed decisions, and to be critical consumers of scientific and technological information related to their lives and the lives of others. NGSS makes this process equitable by making science relevant to student’s lives, focusing on real phenomena, thereby providing student agency, engagement, and motivation. This curiosity, which we must continue to cultivate, is the starting point for deep learning.

The role of science education is to provide students with reasoning tools to understand and shape the world – to become scientifically literate. The role of CASE is to promote high-quality equitable science education at the state level and to support educators in providing these learning opportunities to all students at the classroom level. CASE is a place where educators from around the state, and in these virtual times, around the nation and world, come together to learn, share, and get inspired. CASE leads the implementation of NGSS so that all students can be decision-makers in society, now and in the future.

Sam Stavis

Sam Stavis is a hard working, dedicated educator who cares deeply about the search for knowledge and the process of learning. Originally from NYC, he moved to San Diego in 2009 with his wife (also an educator) and has put down roots in Vista, CA, hoping to improve the educational experiences for ALL students in Vista. Becoming a Director of Middle School Science for CASE will help him continue that journey and support high quality, rigorous science education for ALL students in the state and beyond! Meliora! (Always Better!)

Science is EVERYTHING! Scientific literacy is the singular factor that will help society in ALL categories. We need people to see their differences and diversity of ideas and backgrounds as building blocks of a thoughtful, integrated collaboration with nature and technology. Without scientific literacy we cannot hope to address society's biggest issues; from climate change to disease prevention, we need scientific reasoning and critical thinking to solve these problems! Conceptual and rigorous phenomena based science education, especially in middle grades, will engage ALL students in science learning and, hopefully, will inspire and encourage a diversity of young innovators!

CASE Philosophy is intertwined with my own mission and goals. ALL students deserve high quality, rigorous science instruction leading to a more equitable world. CASE's work in advocating for, collaborating with and communicating with science educators in the state has lifted more than a handful of science teachers and advocates from singular, regional or local missions, and uplifts their work and the work of others. Equity and high quality science literacy is at the forefront of science education in California, and this would NOT be possible without the work of ALL educators who have/are/or will work with CASE.

Amal Amanda Issa

Amal Amanda Issa has significant experience as a science educator in urban district and developing college and career pathways for underserved students. She is adjunct faculty with Merritt College as a Medical Assisting instructor, and serves California’s Community Colleges in her work at the Foundation for California Community College as a Regional Coordinator in the Bay Area. She is committed to serving low-income and first-generation college students through her experience with equity, access, engagement, and success.

Science education is a vessel to a world of wonder and provides platforms with endless opportunities to intertwine multiple disciplines to provide a more holistic experience of learning. So much of learning is rooted in the experience of it, and science is among, around, and within us, lending itself as a versatile tool for student engagement. I believe that science should be a part of learning from the very beginning and not referred to as an elective or alternative opportunity.

CASE is an opportunity to work in partnership across institutions (K12, community college, and 4 years) to better understand opportunities and constraints, in an effort to better align structures and offerings to make education an experience rather than a disjointed puzzle. I see this association to lift the voices of their representatives, most importantly students, to dismantle systems that continue to keep a quality education out of reach.

Tara Fuad

Tara Fuad is Education Director at Nature Collective, a non-profit based in San Diego that engages youth in science practices and inspires them to become environmental stewards. Committed to environmental literacy for all, Tara has strengthened collaborations among informal educators, and between informal educators and school districts throughout San Diego by offering multiple networking and professional learning opportunities. With a background in science policy, a Masters in wetlands science, and over two decades of designing and implementing outdoor science programs, Tara is excited to share her experience in and passion for informal science education as an incoming CASE board member.

Inspiring curiosity and wonder are my top goals when teaching science. It’s critical that we provide authentic experiences that are relevant and encourage students to explore their own interests. We don’t have to go looking for science, we are surrounded by it. We just need to learn how to observe, ask questions, and explore solutions to problems. We need to approach the dynamic field of science with humility. Encouraging students to share their ideas, listen to each other, and be willing to change their minds based on evidence will set them up to be life-long critical thinkers and problem solvers.

The future and health of our planet and all its inhabitants are dependent on an informed citizenry that understands the important role science plays in decision making. CASE helps ensure equitable science education beginning in the youngest grades, using advocacy, collaboration, and communication to help achieve this goal. This is critical to collectively move forward as an environmentally literate nation. It’s also important to acknowledge and understand our country’s troubled history on race. CASE can help ensure our lessons are reflective of our times and that content is delivered through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusivity, and cultural relevancy.

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