When I think of NABT, I think of close friends and mentors that have been important and influential parts of my life for over 25 years. Stacey Kiser’s recent column was a wonderful compilation of her NABT experience, and it led me to reflect on my own NABT journey.

I began my career as a middle school life science teacher and then went on to teach high school biology and chemistry. I wanted to be the best teacher I could possibly be, and it was overwhelming at times. What were the most engaging activities and labs to demonstrate the concepts I wanted the students to learn? Having 35 to 40 students in the classroom and very little lab space, equipment, and other resources was often a challenge. I didn’t even know how to order equipment. Who knew there were so many different kinds of test tubes, Petri dishes, and paramecia? There were many people who helped me in those first years. The guidance counselor knew that students would bring me snakes, so during the summer he taught me how to handle nonpoisonous species; years later, at one time, I had over 22 snakes in my classroom.

Most important in those early years was being introduced to NABT by colleagues, and I looked forward to the arrival of my ABT with its articles and new ideas for labs. I started attending state meetings (SCABT) and learned so much. Being involved with those amazing biology/life science teachers showed me that NABT was truly the organization that would encourage and support my teaching.

Another very important mentor in my life was Dr. Jan Haldeman, who invited me to attend my first NABT conference in Orlando, Florida. We had to pay our own expenses, so we put five biology teachers in the same hotel room. That conference was an eye-opening experience for me. Everyone was truly welcoming, from the college/university people to the nationally known speakers. I felt like I had found a home and a new “family.” We all liked the same things and had the same goals. Also, who knew biology teachers had so much fun? We ended one night at 3 am in someone’s hotel room watching slides of African flower species. Wonderful! Dr. Haldeman won the NABT Four-Year College and University Biology Teaching Award in 2014, and I was very happy she received this recognition.

In 1989 I had the opportunity to enter a Ph.D. program in Plant Physiology and, after graduating, to teach on the college level. Even though I truly loved teaching Plant Physiology and other biology courses, I was able to co-teach biology education classes. I always encouraged the preservice teachers to join NABT (sometimes paying for their memberships myself), wanting to mentor these future biology educators.

Through the years, my NABT colleagues have continued mentoring and encouraging me to take on active roles in the organization. The Four-Year College & University Section “family” members, many I have known since my early days coming to conferences, are still some of my closest friends.

Speaking of mentors, I want to thank Stacey Kiser for all the wonderful work she has done on behalf of NABT this past year. One of her initiatives has been to update and revise the NABT Position Statements, and we are close to completing this goal. If you have never had a chance to peruse these, I recommend taking a few minutes to do so. They are located at http://www.nabt.org under “Free Teaching Resources.” Some of our position statements are suggested guidelines that will be helpful if you need support with your school or administration. Examples include “The Use of Human Body Fluids and Tissue Products in Biology Teaching,” “The Use of Animals in Biology Education,” “Administrative Support for Life Science Teachers,” and “Role of Laboratory and Field Instruction in Biology Education.” Others state NABT’s philosophy on important topics in biology today such as environmental issues, sustainability, evolution, cyberlearning, and equity in science education. We are currently developing a new position statement on teaching about climate change.

It is also important to mention the hard work and dedication of Jacki Reeves-Pepin, our executive director. She is constantly looking for ways to promote NABT and its goals and to bring us into the next decade more prepared than ever before. I can’t thank her enough for her guidance!

If you are reading this ABT, most likely you have already mentored and encouraged others in their journey as life science or biology teachers. I want to thank you for your work and encourage you to continue this important task. Think of others that might need the NABT family. Give them copies of the journal, encourage them to join our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

We are also looking for new ways to help mentor other teachers. The #IamNABT video contest will look to members to post videos highlighting favorite classroom practices, field study descriptions, or other engaging activities on YouTube. The videos will be judged by a “celebrity panel,” and the grand prize winner of the contest will receive a paid trip to next year’s NABT Professional Development Conference in Providence! Look for details in the coming months.

As you can see, 2015 will be an exciting year for NABT, and I look forward to serving as your president. I would love to hear your NABT story!


Jane P. Ellis
NABT President – 2015