Seventy-one years ago, the fledgling National Association of Biology Teachers accumulated more than 1,000 members, a journal, and a place in the Union of American Biological Societies, became an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and organized its first national meeting —— all within a span of 180 days. Reading the first volume of The American Biology Teacher, two articles caught my attention that remain as classic and relevant to NABT members as they were when first penned by D. F. Miller in November 1938 and Oscar Riddle in March 1939. These articles contain two important messages. The first is that the NABT brings both opportunity and obligation to its members —— the opportunity to foster a professional spirit among teacher members and the obligation to secure an ““enlarged place for the life sciences in the instruction of our people [citizenry] as the basic reasons for our [NABT's] existence”” (O. Riddle, 1939). The second message is that our best guide for today is our vision for the NABT's future. Miller and Riddle admonish us to look within —— to you, the members —— for the help, leadership, and direction we need going forward.
There were three steps to the founders' plan: (1) form the Association, (2) publish a journal, and (3) ““encourage the formation of local groups of teachers of biological subjects”” to meet, exchange ideas, and encourage the ““best possible local conditions”” (Miller, 1938). To me, step 3 has always been the pivotal value of membership. I take Miller literally when he states in ““Of Our Own Making”” that ““to whatever extent the teachers will cooperate to work out their problems and improve themselves and their teaching, to that extent will the entire movement be a success.””
Recently, the recession has affected the NABT in ways unforeseen at its founding. The current Board is working hard on restructuring to ensure that NABT adjusts to the new financial restrictions placed on all nonprofits by the recession. Moving from Reston to Washington, DC, consolidating staff, and replacing postal communications with electronic communications are cost-saving mechanisms that have begun to serve the NABT well.
The opportunity and obligation to serve our members in advantageous ways in the current economy has made step 3 in our founders' plan even more strategic. That is, to communicate the value and necessity of an active membership. Please consider my message here the official public call to serve. Leveraging the talent, diversity, and passion of our members is what makes a good organization great. My aim is to excite lifelong learning in everyone within our reach.
An involved membership begins with an informed membership. ““From the President”” was initiated in 2007 by Patricia Waller (then President) and continued by Todd Carter (2008) and John Moore (2009). I intend to advance the flow of information to you and provide a frame of reference to empower you to become involved in our professional development association. Communication with you is imperative, not only to me but to all the board members whose voices are also represented through this column. I had the honor to begin that flow of information personally with many of you at the 2009 NABT Professional Development Conference in Denver. If you and I interacted, you have a ““green sticky dot”” on your conference badge to show that we shook hands.
Another avenue of communication is the NABT's electronic newsletter, News & Views. Find opportunities for professional development and views from sections, committees, and the leadership of NABT to connect you to what is happening throughout our organization. Establishing and fostering connections is at the heart of membership. Collaborating with your colleagues is exciting, fun, and community-building. This is another benefit of membership, and widening your benefits is high on my agenda.
Let me introduce you to some actively involved members of NABT who volunteer their services to make a difference in the lives of life science educators and students. Meet Alton Biggs, founding president of the Texas Association of Biology Teachers and one of the most generous members —— in both his time and his energy —— that you will ever find. Meet Nominations Chair Carl Koch, who has devoted many years to identifying and encouraging members to become active in NABT leadership. Meet Carol Shutte, chair-elect of the Two-Year Section, who has reorganized the Two-Year component of the conference for two-year colleagues. Meet Mark Little and Mike Sipes from the Colorado Biology Teachers Association (CBTA), who volunteered to work on making the Denver conference cost effective for teachers. Meet Jacki McLaughlin and Teddie Phillipson-Mower, who together developed the Four-Year Scientific Teaching Symposia for the past two years. Meet Bill Leonard, who stepped in to become editor of The American Biology Teacher, our hallmark journal and ““organ of expression for the biology teachers”” of our association. Meet Mary Colvard, who served as Director-at-Large and creates inquiry teaching lessons for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute while being actively involved in professional development in New York. Meet Molly Winget, who this past year formed our newest affiliate, the Hong Kong Association of Biology Teachers. Meet Paul King, who has been supporting our conference and our Massachusetts affiliate since 1992. Meet William Anderson and Sandra Litvin, who volunteered to be regional coordinators for Region II. Meet Kara Lukin and Charles Musiba, who volunteered their time to share the Colorado Caféé Scientifique experience with the affiliates at the conference. There are so many NABTers for all of us to meet. There is Patsye Peebles from Louisiana, who also has served as Director//Coordinator, a member of the Awards Committee, and a prolific online sharer of information promoting NABT activities across the nation. Patsye models not only ““serve, serve, serve”” but ““deliver, deliver, deliver.”” There are so many NABTers for all of us to meet.
Finally, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to your current NABT Board of Directors —— your team. There is President-Elect Dan Ward, a two-year college professor and chair of the Professional Development Committee. There is Secretary//Treasurer and Awards Committee Chair Bob Melton, who has never said ““no”” when asked to do something for the NABT. There is Director-at-Large Robert Dennison, Texas Outstanding Biology Teacher Award director, who delivers strategies and resources for teaching evolution and speaks of his experiences in bringing Darwin to life at state conferences. There is Director-at-Large Dennis Gathmann, who consistently organizes, promotes, and communicates opportunities to, for, and from the Retired Members Section. There is Director//Coordinator John Fedors from Region IX, who is actively seeking to foster communications for and from California teachers via his Web site. There is Harry MacDonald from Kansas, who has served in the Affiliates and has a new role as Director/Coordinator in addition to his outreach work in Kansas and elsewhere on the topics of evolution, science, and making a difference.
January 2010 is the year that begins a new story that can be titled ““Of Our Own Re-Making.”” I love this association and I look forward to being a conduit to you and for you. Find opportunity and fulfill obligations in our professional development association. Fan the flames of involvement. Volunteer your services for the membership. According to author Marilyn Sadler, It's Not Easy Being a Bunny —— yet at the Denver conference, when I shook your hands, that personal collaboration was so easy and so much fun. Take my handshake as an invitation to invite you to share, collaborate, and build community. Start at http://www.nabt.org. You will be one click away from the best investment in your professional life.