2020 Member Spotlights

Read more: Veterans Day Member Spotlights


Let's Meet December's Member Spotlight: Jessica Bibbs-Fox!
Jessica is a middle school math and science teacher who has undoubtedly become a distinguished educator in her community! Thanks for taking the time to interview with us, Jessica!

Tell us about yourself.
I’m the last daughter of parents born in the 1930s in rural Mississippi, who reminded me often of the importance of an education but to also appreciate/value the education offered outside the classroom. This foundation moved me to pursue teaching as a career and to specifically work in educating the people of my community. So I teach 8th grade Math, Integrated Science, and a coding elective in the community in which I live and was raised. I have been an educator for 17 years, serving two of those years (2016-2018) outside the classroom as a school’s lead technology and 21st Century curriculum specialist.

I’m passionate about providing access and opportunities in the STEM/STEAM fields to my students and promoting technology integration in all subjects. I’m an Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Certified Level II Educator, and a host of other titles but really all that means is that I’m always looking for ways to grow in becoming a better educator.

Outside of my time in the classroom and seeking professional development, I dedicate my time to volunteering in my community, and engaging in outdoor recreation such as snowboarding. I love the feel of learning, traveling and camping, especially in RVs (I have learned to say that I’m a “RVer” not a camper because I am not a fan of tents).

How did you first get to join CASE?
About six years ago, I had the opportunity to join a cohort of elementary school teachers for professional development over the summer at CSU Long Beach that was focused on training teachers in NGSS. The program was funded by a grant that provided PD, membership into CASE, and the ability to attend the yearly CASE conference. Every year since then I have actively participated in the program and kept my membership active in CASE.

What is the best part about being a teacher?
The “Aha” moment when a student perseveres in a challenging task then finally gets it. It makes all the hard work, the time spent, and the frustration of not taking away that moment so worth it.

Describe CASE in 5 words or less
Encouraging, representative, engaging, focused, and accessible.

What is your all-time favorite movie or book? Why?
I love children’s books, I still prefer them over adult books today! My favorite is “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo. It’s a story of a toy rabbit who is humbled by life’s journeys. The way the author writes the story touches your heart, but also the lessons taught by the many interactions this toy has throughout the story really impressed upon me the importance of seeing every encounter with people as a teachable moment.

If you could have a lifetime supply of one food, what would it be and why?
Potato chips! I love them. The salty, crunchy, and variety makes them the best invention. Oftentimes people compare things of value as being better than “sliced bread” but really things should be compared to “sliced potatoes that are deep fried” - but then again nothing compares, that's how great potato chips are.

Our Member Spotlight: Wayne Thompson. Wayne is a middle school teacher, a member of the Policy Committee at CASE and an avid dinosaur enthusiast! Thank you Wayne for the awesome must-read interview!

Tell us about yourself
I am a 6-8 grade science teacher at C.T. English Middle School in Los Gatos, California and have taught 5th grade and up. I grew up in

an amusement park filled with life-size animatronic dinosaurs that my parents built in Scotts Valley, California called “The Lost World” in the 1960’s-’70’s. I knew from an early age that I wanted to spend my life engaged in nature, history, science, teaching, and the arts. My first job was to crawl up inside the belly of one of our more problematic life-sized Triceratops (we tended to three of them in our park) when its motor would break down. I would sit on the metal “I” beam inside rocking the enormous head of the beast up and down and growling at customers walking by for 10 cents per hour. I worked as a naturalist and handyman at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History before deciding to go to college and study paleontology.

After college, I was lucky enough to run the gamut from digging up dinosaurs in Colorado and Montana (including some nice Triceratops by the way) to being a micropaleontologist with the U.S. Geological Survey investigating the timing of human evolution in the Turkana Basin, eastern Africa. There are fewer hooks for student engagement than millions-of-years-old creatures turned into stone; the gateway to becoming a teacher was wide open! Storytelling in the classroom focuses students' interest every time! I enjoy running into former students who now have families of their own and especially those who have decided to pursue careers as geneticists, engineers, biologists, or otherwise somehow engaged in the sciences.

I really embrace the new NGSS standards. I think they have brought a level of critical examination to the art of science teaching that we didn’t see as much until now. I’ve been a teacher since the geological era before the last set of California standards and I can honestly say that the dialogue around the art of science teaching here in California has never been richer, more enlivened, and progressive. My wife and soulmate Susan is a science teacher/librarian at Carmel Middle School, Carmel, California. In my spare time I practice the art of blowing giant bubbles as big as school buses and playing with our chocolate lab Chaco in the Monterey Bay.

Why is being a member of CASE important to you?
I think that being a CASE member allows teachers to reflect on their practice and refine their art with the input of the larger social group of science teachers. As a team of teachers, we are able to accomplish much more than we could as individuals. I truly believe that it is only in collaboration with our peers that we can grow beyond the boundaries of our own individualism and really reflect the greater diversity represented by the collective efforts of the larger group. We are each enriched by the greater perspective of the group, and we can find resources and activities that we would otherwise have missed on our own. Along with other social organizations supporting NGSS science, being members of CASE provides a rich sense of belonging to a larger group and support for the times when we need it.

What is your all-time favorite movie or book? Why?
My favorite book is “the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin. I read it cover to cover first when I was 18 and it greatly influenced me to a career in paleontology. It is a chronicle on the birth of a whole field of science and is a window onto a world now long since passed. My favorite movie is a Japanese film called “Himatsuri” meaning “fire festival” and which is the story of a small coastal fishing village under tension from a logging company that has just moved into the region and is polluting the ocean and fishing culture that has existed there for centuries. It has a surreal quality that is hard to forget.

What would you tell someone who is considering joining CASE?
I would tell someone who is considering joining CASE that it’s one of the best ways to provide perspective and value beyond your classroom in the larger group of science teachers in California. And it’s a ton of fun to meet other science teachers and broaden your practice.

Do you have any funny Zoom/virtual learning stories you’d like to share?
Not yet, but my most memorable Zoom period was when I let all of my students bring their pets to “class” and share them with a short vignette about their pet. Addressing the SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) and physical exercise pieces during fall virtual learning is going to be super important for combating “screen fatigue” and science is a great outlet for that.

Tell us about what animal you think best describes your personality.
The animal that most accurately describes me the best would have to be the California Sea Hare, (Aplysia californica): regal and elegant, yet relatively clueless and seemingly wandering aimlessly about.

Member Spotlight is an awesome high school teacher, Tara Sikorski. Tara is part of CASE’s NGSS and Policy Committees. She’s also a nature lover who enjoys hiking! Thank you for the interview Tara! Keep reading to learn more about her.

Tell us about yourself?
I am entering into my 17th year in education and I’m excited to return to the classroom teaching Living Earth and Biotechnology at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo Unified School District. I spent the last six years in other teachers’ classrooms supporting NGSS Implementation as a Teacher on Special Assignment/Instructional Coach and it feels good to have my own group of students again. I am passionate about equity in science education and deeply believe that ALL students are capable of being inquisitive scientists in the classroom and beyond.

When I’m not in the classroom, you can find me adventuring out in nature. My cell phone is full of landscapes and critter pictures - some of my up close and personal with nature favorites are ones I took of a pair of spotted owls, pika, marmots, and even a mountain lion. I love visiting the National Parks system and have been collecting stamps in my Passport to National Parks over the years. I’m incredibly grateful to live in the Bay Area where we are within an hour drive of the ocean and a wide variety of hiking and a four hour drive of mountains and great skiing. In the spring, you could very well be blasting down the slopes in a snowstorm one day and sitting on the beach in 70 degree weather the next.

Why is being a member of CASE important to you?
CASE has been a tremendous resource for me both as a classroom teacher and as a teacher on special assignment. CASE provides a wealth of information, ideas and support that has been instrumental to my success as an educator. I love attending CASE conferences which are wonderful opportunities to meet and learn from colleagues. I always walk away with something that I can immediately implement into my teaching practice.

As I’ve increased my involvement with CASE over the years, the conferences feel less like conferences and more like a science family reunion. This community is hands down one of the most talented, passionate, and inspirational groups of science educators that I have known and I’m glad to be a part of it!

What is your all-time favorite movie or book? Why?
Ooo…this is a hard question particularly since Nate already said Princess Bride. After Princess Bride, it would be a toss-up between Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Goonies. I’ve watched both movies easily hundreds of times from childhood to now and know the lines by heart. Also, it’s absolutely impossible to resist singing (and sometimes dancing) along with David Bowie as the Goblin King. They’re both really fun movies and are my go to for background input while I grade or plan lessons.

What would you tell someone who is considering joining CASE?
Stop thinking about it and just do it! You won’t regret the access you will have to the California specific science resources and the opportunity to engage with an amazing network of forward-thinking science educators. Active CASE membership is one of the best things you can do to help yourself grow as a professional.

Do you have any funny Zoom/virtual learning stories you’d like to share?
I love animals, so I’m always entertained in meetings where pets make an unexpected guest appearance into a meeting. Some examples would include a goofy Labrador retriever that decided to lick the laptop--camera included, the cat that decided to walk across the keyboard sending a message in chat along the way, and the parrot that started preening their owner’s hair. I’m sure there will be more fun stories as we engage in distance learning.

What are the first things you’d do if you won the lottery?
If I won the lottery, I would take a year off and tackle my travel bucket list. I would start with a road trip throughout the USA (with a few flights to Hawaii and Alaska of course) and complete my quest to hike in ALL of the National Parks, including the most remote ones in Alaska. Somewhere on the adventure, I would take a break during the winter months for an excursion to the southern hemisphere with the destination of Antarctica. Really the year off would be about taking time to slow down and enjoy all that nature has to offer.

Member Spotlight, Diana Thompson! Diana is an elementary school teacher and NGSS advocate from Southern California. She is part of the membership and conference committees, so make sure to tell her “thank you” for all her hard work if you encounter her at this year’s virtual conference! We appreciate you taking the time to interview with us, Diana!

Tell us about yourself
I am currently the Elementary Science TOSA for TK-6 for Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County, California. I have taught for over 22 years in several different grades in K-6. I support our 16 Elementary Science Specialists who teach all of our TK-6 students in the Elementary Science Labs. I was a member of the California State Adoption team for K-8 NGSS Curriculum. I have also been a trainer for NGSS Rollouts, writer and reviewer for CAST Assessment Items, worked with Ed Reports, Kids@Science Educator, and several other committees and grants.

Why is being a member of CASE important to you?
Being a member of CASE is important to me because it is a community of likeminded educators who strive for the best science education for our students and resources for teachers. We work with the State Board of Education and CDE to provide input and guidance for quality science education. Many members of CASE are leaders and fun positive people to work with.

What is your all-time favorite movie or book? Why?
My favorite movie is "Apollo 13" with Tom Hanks. The scene where the Director of the Engineers gathers all the engineers into a room with materials that are up in the capsule and he tells them that they need to figure out a way to get the capsule back to Earth. He states "Failure is not an option". It truly shows how important our students need to learn how to be problem solvers, work effectively as a team, and communicate. This is NGSS.

What would you tell someone who is considering joining CASE?
I would tell someone who would like to join CASE, that there are many opportunities to contribute through committee work, writing, networking, and learning. CASE allows you to have an impact on science education for our students. Plus we have Happy Hours!

Do you have any funny Zoom/virtual learning stories you'd like to share?
I don't have any funny zoom and virtual learning stories to share. I like to let students share their pets or something special to them on the call.

If you could choose a holiday to occur twice each year, which would it be and why?
If we could have any holiday twice a year, I would choose MLK Day. It is a day for neighbors to do something positive for their community. Time to spend together making things better for others.

Member Spotlight is Rudy Escobar! Rudy is currently a member of the legislative oversight committee and publishing committee (assisting with our bi-monthly CCS publication). In the past, he served as an NGSS committee member as well. Thank you Rudy for taking part in our interview, and we appreciate all your hard work in the CASE community!

Tell us about yourself
My name is Rudy Escobar. I am a STEM Coordinator for Stanislaus County Office of Education. I have a chemistry degree and a master in STEAM Education. Prior to my position, I taught chemistry and engineering for ten years. I also taught coding and robotics in an informal setting. Prior to being a teacher, I worked as an inorganic chemist. Before I came to the United States, I was studying and working as a chemical engineer and teaching computer science to low socioeconomic status children and adults. Currently, my focus is on STEM, science, computer science, Project-Based Learning, robotics and coding for TK-12.

One interesting thing about myself is that when I graduated from college, I had said that I would never be a teacher because I could not stand kids. It didn't take long for me to realize that teaching and advocating for STEM and Science education for all students would become my passion, and I would not trade it for anything in the world. My students used to ask me why would I leave a good paying career to go teach and my answer would always be "because touching the lives of every kid that I encounter and helping them succeed and be passionate about science just like I am, is more rewarding than a salary or a status". My goal is that someday science and STEM become what drives our education system, making more authentic real life experiences for our students in California through Project-Based Learning.

Why is being a member of CASE important to you?
Being a member of CASE has been one of my priorities since I first found out about it as a teacher. As a teacher in the classroom, I benefited from CASE by learning from the publications I received, the workshops I attended and the network of teachers that I met around the state. As a STEM coordinator, it has become even more important because through CASE I have met a lot of good mentors, networked with more administrators and educators and had the opportunity to present to teachers and administrators around the State.

In addition to these, being a member of CASE has given me the opportunity to participate in committees in which I could advocate for science education.

What is your all-time favorite movie or book? Why?
I do not have a particular favorite movie, but obviously I like Star Wars and Marvel movies. I liked the last Star Wars movie and Captain Marvel movie the most because of the special effects and because in both movies the heroes are women, which I think is something that girls from this generation need to see. Not that they can become a fictional superhero, but that they can go far and beyond their dreams and should not settle for less.

What would you tell someone who is considering joining CASE?
I would tell them to not consider it. Just do it! Being part of CASE is the best choice they can make if they want to advance their content knowledge as well as network with more educators. Being in CASE is just like an investment. The more you get involved and participate the more positive things you will get from it. If you want to grow as a professional, you need to join CASE and get connected with other educators across the state.

Do you have any funny Zoom/virtual learning stories you’d like to share?
I am not sure if it is a funny story but I have been in so many meetings this summer, and when we started using Zoom I had a meeting and there were about 10 people on the call and I was talking for about three minutes and then I paused. Everyone looked like they were paying attention and some of them were even smiling. So I continued talking for about two more minutes and suddenly I got a message that my internet had failed. I found out later that I had been saying everything I needed to say but no one heard it because I had lost them. But they looked so engaged. So now when I am in meetings and everyone stays quiet, I always ask. Everyone answers "yes, we are just thinking" but I guess I ended up with a trauma. Lol.

If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Right now because I have been home for so long, I think anywhere would be fine, but truthfully, I would love to go to Greece and Spain on my next European vacation.

Meet Our Member Spotlight Nate Fairchild. Nate is one of our awesome members from the Northernmost part of the state! Thank you Nate for taking part in our interview!

Tell us about yourself
I'm in a dream job at the Shasta County Office of Education, where I direct an outdoor science school and a planetarium, in addition to supporting science teachers and acting as the charter school liaison. Prior to that, I spent 20 years in the classroom teaching mostly science, but also math, history, tech, PE, and art. My original college plan of being a park ranger worked for several years in combination with outdoor science schools. I even handled wild animals for a couple of years, which of course prepared me for middle school. I’m joking of course, middle school is the best for me and I loved teaching them. I live with my wife of 17 years and 14-year old twin daughters, in Redding, California.

Why is being a member of CASE important to you?
CASE has been absolutely essential to me since the day I left outdoor science schools to brave the four walls of a classroom. I had almost no resources but plenty of enthusiasm! When I attended my first CASE conference in 1993, I found a wealth of ideas and resources that immediately improved my teaching of science. I see all the work that is done by CASE and believe that the right thing to do is to be a member. Professionals benefit from belonging to supporting organizations, and in my science role this is primarily CASE. A large membership means CASE has more funds and more power in representing science education at the state level (and beyond, at times).

What is your all time favorite movie or book? Why?
The Princess Bride is like the story of my years as a middle school science teacher. To quote Peter Falk, "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." The Princess Bride remains light-hearted even in the most challenging moments. Many of these moments involve science, such as using trial and error to understand the Fire Swamp or testing a hypothesis that might seem absolutely inconceivable. In the end, it is a story of love, and I wholeheartedly believe that teachers must always find some love for every student.

What would you tell someone who is considering joining CASE?
First, it's a bargain. You save as a member when you go to conferences and it's enough to justify the membership easily. Also, members get a terrific newsletter and online resources. Finally, many members consider it part of their profession.

Do you have any funny Zoom/virtual learning stories you’d like to share?
My favorite Zoom meetings are among colleagues that know each other well. Laughing and being a bit silly is certainly the next best thing to being there. One time we all started changing our names to ridiculous names in the media. Science teachers can be quite creative! I don't think we accomplished all our goals that day, but our interpersonal relationships were surely enhanced!

If you could spend a day with any famous person (living or dead), who would it be and why?
Martin Luther King, Jr. I would want to experience the challenging line he walked between staying mainstream enough to be accepted by the establishment, and radical enough to elicit true enduring change. I would hope to experience black culture, which would be particularly intriguing among his followers. His personal experiences blended with his vast knowledge would infuse me with energy and hope, not only regarding black issues, but for all issues of equity. Teachers are on the front line of these issues.

Meet Our First Member Spotlight: Rachel Flanigan. Thank you Rachel for taking the time for an interview.

Tell us about yourself
I am a fourth grade teacher from Lodi Unified in the heart of the Central Valley. I am passionate about science education and the doors that science can open for children. From an early age I have loved science and hope that my passion shines through in my teaching.

Why is being a member of CASE important to you?
What I love most about being a member of CASE is being connected to a wonderful community of science educators! I love being able to connect with educators across the state and see how others are teaching science in their classrooms. The power of teachers always amazes me and I love being able to collaborate with teachers from all over California! I also really enjoy the professional development opportunities from the yearly conference to the webinars. The quality of professional development is always top notch!

What is your all-time favorite movie or book? Why?
My favorite book is actually a series- Harry Potter, the entire boxed set. I just love reading these books to my students and seeing the magic come alive before their eyes!

What would you tell someone who is considering joining CASE?
Do it! There are so many wonderful reasons to be a part of this amazing organization. It is a great way to stay on top of important events related to science education. You will not regret the decision!

If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
My one super power would be super speed! I could finally get my never ending teacher list completed!

Do you have any funny Zoom/virtual learning stories you’d like to share?
Thankfully not any crazy zoom stories, but my grade level partner would host an extra yoga zoom session for both of our classes. I came to the first one without really thinking things through what I was going to be doing... yoga in front of a computer screen! Quickly, I realized that maybe I should turn my video off, as I am not the most flexible or athletic person! Kids had a blast and I realized yoga is not my thing!